Pumpkins are the quintessential autumn vegetable. They have one of the longest growing seasons of any North American food crop—up to 125 days. And they’re among the last harvested crops in the fall, which is one reason why they’ve become a Thanksgiving staple.
Pumpkin is also one of the most nutrient-dense foods you can find. It’s loaded with vitamin K (half of the recommended daily requirement!), and vitamins B, C, and E. It’s also a rich source of much-needed minerals like copper, iron, magnesium, selenium, and zinc.
Plus, pumpkin is high in beta-carotene, the precursor for vitamin A. And if that all weren’t enough, pumpkin seeds are very beneficial for the prostate, as I reported in the October 2019 issue (“Men: Protect your prostate and slash your risk of other chronic diseases with this fall favorite”).
But many of these nutrients get lost when you buy processed pumpkin seeds in a bag or puréed pumpkin in a can. Not to mention, industrial processing can contaminate pumpkin’s natural goodness with nasty additives and toxic artificial ingredients.
So, this holiday season, why not make your own roasted pumpkin seeds and pumpkin purée? It’s easy, healthy, and fun for the whole family. Here’s how…
DIY pumpkin seeds and purée
Roasting your own pumpkin seeds takes only a few simple steps. First, cut open your pumpkin and scoop out the seeds. Next, place the seeds in a colander and rinse the pulp off under your kitchen faucet. Then, dry the seeds with a towel. Toss the seeds with a little bit of olive oil and salt, place them on a baking sheet, and roast them in the oven at 325°F for 10 minutes.
Voila! You’ve made tasty, healthy snacks that can last for up to three months at room temperature in an airtight container, nine months in the refrigerator, or a whole year in the freezer!
Some people choose to crack the dried, roasted shell and extract the soft, inner seeds. But I prefer to eat my roasted pumpkin seeds whole, along with the shell, for the added nutrition (especially fiber) and crunch. So whichever way you prefer…enjoy this healthy, nutritious, satisfying snack!
I also enjoy making my own pumpkin purée to use in everything from soup to pies. It’s just as easy (and rewarding!) as the seed-roasting process.
Start by cutting an organic pumpkin in half and removing the seeds, pulp, and stringy portion.
Then, cut the pumpkin meat into small pieces, and peel. Place the pieces in a steamer or metal colander that fits in a covered pot. Put the pot over boiling water, cover, and steam for about 50 minutes, or until tender. Finally, purée the soft pumpkin in a blender or food processor, or you can mash it by hand.
It really is that simple! You can use your fresh pumpkin purée immediately, or you can freeze it or can it for post-Thanksgiving recipes.
Beyond the pie plate
When making a holiday dessert like pumpkin pie, pumpkin bread, or pumpkin cookies, I like to “spice up” my purée with allspice, ground cinnamon, cloves, ginger, and nutmeg for an added taste—and health—boost. (I’ll talk more about these spices in next month’s issue as well. So, as always, stay tuned!)
For savory dishes, I often add a little dried sage and garlic to my pumpkin purée. One of my favorite winter dinner treats is lentil pumpkin soup accompanied by skillet pumpkin cornbread. I also like to fill manicotti with a pumpkin purée and ricotta mixture, and top it with a sage and brown butter sauce.
And don’t forget your pets! You can add a dollop of your homemade pumpkin purée to a bowl of dog or cat food to give your furry friend a tasty, nutritious, and low-calorie snack.