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Pumpkins More Than Just Jack-o’-lanterns

If you think pumpkins are only good for carving jack-o’-lanterns, think again.

Pumpkins are a very nutrient-dense food, with ½ cup of mashed pumpkin containing 24 calories. They are packed with many nutrients such as fiber, potassium and beta-carotene, which is needed to produce vitamin A.

The fiber and potassium are good for the heart and to help manage high blood pressure, while the vitamin A is good for your eyes and normal cell growth.

Pumpkins are low in calories mainly because they are 90% water.

Pumpkins are a member of the gourd family, putting them in the same category as cucumbers, zucchini, watermelon and cantaloupe.

Most people use canned pumpkin from the store, but food can be prepared from fresh pumpkin, too. In fact, every part of the pumpkin, including the stem, can be eaten.

To add more pumpkin to your diet, try roasting it in the oven. Make your own pumpkin puree to be used in smoothies, pasta sauces, spreads or baking.

For roasting, look for a sugar pumpkin. This smaller variety is ideal for cooking due to its thin skin. The standard jack-o’-lantern pumpkins have a thicker skin.

If you want to buy your own pumpkin, your choices may be a little limited. About 80% of the pumpkin crop in the U.S. is available only during October, but you can buy canned pumpkin in the store year-round.

If you are interested in growing your own pumpkins here in North Dakota, the neon pumpkin might be the right choice. This pumpkin begins orange and grows larger throughout the season, but it is ready to harvest weeks sooner than other pumpkin varieties. In addition, the vines of the neon pumpkin do not grow nearly as large as other pumpkins, making them easier to tend.

For more information on safely growing, processing and selling pumpkins and other specialty crops in North Dakota, visit NDSU Extension’s Field to Fork website at



Abigail Glaser, NDSU dietetics and management communication student

Julie Garden-Robinson, NDSU Extension food and nutrition specialist

Old Farmer's Almanac. (n.d.). How to Cook a Pumpkin. Retrieved from

This project was supported by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Agricultural Marketing Service through grant 14-SCBGP-ND-0038. Its contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the USDA.

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