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Add Some Pumpkin and Squash to Your Menu

Julie Garden-Robinson, Food and Nutrition Specialist, NDSU Extension Service

What recipes do you think of when you hear the words pumpkin or squash? Are you thinking of pumpkin pie or pumpkin bread? Pumpkin and squash can be used in many ways on our menu.

Did you know that most canned “pumpkin” is actually squash? Pumpkin and squash are in the same plant family, and their taste and nutritional value are almost the same. They are good sources of fiber to help our digestion. Pumpkin and squash are rich in pigments (called carotenoids) that our body converts to vitamin A. We need vitamin A for healthy eyes and skin.

Try a variety of winter squash, including butternut, buttercup, acorn, hubbard or spaghetti squash, with these tips.

Store it correctly.

  • Store pumpkin and squash in a cool, dry place. Do not wash it before storing because that can shorten its storage life. When stored correctly, it can last several months.

Bake it.

  • To bake a pumpkin or squash, rinse the squash with running water and scrub with a vegetable brush if needed. Poke holes in the skin with a knife.
  • Place it in a baking pan and bake at 350 F until tender. Bake small squash/pumpkin for about 45 minutes or large squash for about 90 minutes.
  • Remove the skin and seeds, then mash, season as desired and serve.

Microwave it.

  • Rinse the squash and cut it into chunks. Place in a microwave-safe container and cook on high for about seven minutes until tender. Note: Raw squash and pumpkin are very hard; be cautious when cutting it to avoid injuring yourself.


Freeze it.

  • Cooked, mashed squash can be preserved by freezing but not by home-canning. Chunks of cooked squash can be preserved by pressure canning. Visit and follow the directions for safe food preservation.

Try some new recipes.

  • Have you ever made pumpkin pancakes or pumpkin fruit leather? How about pumpkin or squash soup or pumpkin bread pudding? See for recipes to try. Click on “Recipes,” then “Breads” or “Snacks, Appetizers and Beverages.”

Try the seeds, too!

  • Roast squash or pumpkin seeds. After baking or cooking a squash or pumpkin, remove the seeds and rinse them with water and pat dry with a paper towel. Preheat oven to 300 F. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil (for easy cleanup). Place the seeds in a bowl, add a small amount of oil and stir. Sprinkle with seasoning salt, Cajun spice or your favorite spice. Bake for about 45 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes, until the seeds are golden brown. 
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