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Prairie Fare: Don’t Pass Up Pumpkin on Your Menu

Julie Garden-Robinson, NDSU Extension Service food and nutrition specialist Julie Garden-Robinson, NDSU Extension Service food and nutrition specialist
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By Julie Garden-Robinson, Food and Nutrition Specialist

NDSU Extension Service

“I want to make the recipe from your column, but where am I supposed to get some pumpkin?” someone asked me a couple of years ago.

“What do you mean?” I asked. I thought she was teasing me.

“I checked at three grocery stores. You can’t get pumpkin anywhere. There’s a shortage,” she replied.

I had missed the news about a pumpkin shortage. I’m sure my face turned a nice shade of rosy pink. I had several cans of pumpkin in my cupboard, so I hadn’t tried to buy any pumpkin at the time.

I’m going to try to encourage pumpkin consumption again. I checked. You should be able to find canned pumpkin this year. Let’s give thanks for that.

Why eat pumpkin? Pumpkin is a “super food” packed with nutrients, including fiber and beta carotene, which our body uses to produce vitamin A. We need enough vitamin A to maintain healthy skin, eyes and mucous membranes. Many dark green, orange and gold vegetables provide beta carotene.

Because pumpkin is about 90 percent water by weight, it is low in calories. One-half cup of canned pumpkin has just 40 calories.

Pumpkin is a good source of potassium, an essential mineral for maintaining our health. Potassium helps our muscles, including our all-important heart muscle contract. A diet rich in potassium-rich fruits, vegetables and dairy may help with blood pressure management, according to several studies. Potassium also plays a major role in allowing our nerves to transmit signals.

Besides pumpkin, many other foods such as potatoes, tomatoes, orange juice, bananas, cooked dry edible beans, dairy foods and whole grains, among other foods, also provide potassium.

That’s all the more reason to include a wide range of foods in our diet every day to nourish our body.

You can use canned or fresh pumpkin as an ingredient in your recipes, but you will want to choose the right pumpkin for the job. A large jack-o-lantern pumpkin often is stringy inside, so it makes a nice autumn decoration but not a good recipe ingredient. Smaller sugar pumpkins are ideal for use in recipes.

To start with a whole pumpkin, simply rinse the pumpkin to clean it, cut it in half and scoop out the seeds. Then bake or peel it, cut it in chunks and boil or microwave it. Finally, mash or puree the pumpkin in a blender or food processor and then use the pumpkin in your favorite recipes. Drain the pumpkin before using so the moisture level in your recipe is not affected. Consider roasting the pumpkin seeds with a touch of oil and garlic powder or other spice to enjoy them as a snack, too.

Don’t reserve pumpkin as an ingredient only for Thanksgiving dessert. Here’s a fiber-rich soup recipe featuring pumpkin and white beans courtesy of the Pennsylvania Nutrition Education Network. Try something a little different.

Pumpkin and Bean Soup

1 (15-ounce) can white beans

1 small onion, finely chopped

1 c. water

1 (15-ounce) can pure pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)

1 1/2 c. apple juice

1/2 tsp. cinnamon

1/8 tsp. nutmeg, allspice or ginger

1/2 tsp. black pepper

1/4 tsp. salt

Blend white beans, onion and water with a potato masher or blender until smooth. In a large pot, add the pumpkin, apple juice, cinnamon, nutmeg, black pepper and salt. Stir. Add the blended bean mix to the pot. Cook over low heat for 15 to 20 minutes, until warmed through.

Makes six servings (about 1 cup per serving). Each serving has 140 calories, 0.5 gram (g) of fat, 30 g of carbohydrate, 7 g of protein, 7 g of fiber and a full day’s supply of vitamin A.

(Julie Garden-Robinson, Ph.D., R.D., L.R.D., is a North Dakota State University Extension Service food and nutrition specialist and professor in the Department of Health, Nutrition and Exercise Sciences.)

NDSU Agriculture Communication – Oct. 25, 2012

Source:Julie Garden-Robinson, (701) 231-7187,
Editor:Rich Mattern, (701) 231-6136,
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