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How to choose a fresh pumpkin

How to choose a fresh pumpkin | UPMC Health Plan

Pumpkin season is in full swing, and it seems like you can’t go anywhere these days without seeing some new food or drink pumpkinized. Pumpkin doughnuts, pumpkin bread, pumpkin soup, pumpkin cookies, pumpkin cheesecake, pumpkin granola, pumpkin scones, pumpkin beer, pumpkin smoothies, the infamous pumpkin spice latte— and, of course, the ever-classic pumpkin pie, just to name a few! It’s trendy, delicious, and completely over-done, if you ask me! But we shouldn’t discount pumpkin just yet. Here’s the low-down on this trendy gourd!

Pumpkins are a type of winter squash belonging to the same family as butternut squash, acorn squash, and spaghetti squash. They are native to North America, and are one of the nation’s most popular crops, with 1.5 billion pounds produced annually! The season runs from September to March, but the fruit is most popular during October and November. Interestingly, the most familiar form of pumpkin, canned pumpkin puree, is often made from other winter squash, like butternut squash, rather than the traditionally defined pumpkin.

Pumpkins are quite versatile when it comes to cooking, and their applications seem almost endless. Most parts of the pumpkin and plant are edible, though in this country only the flesh and seeds are typically consumed. The pumpkin can be boiled, roasted, steamed or baked, and can be used in both sweet and savory dishes. Most winter squash are interchangeable in recipes, since the texture and flavor are similar.

Pumpkins aren’t usually thought of as being all that healthy, thanks to our never-ending appetite for pumpkin in every dessert and dessert-like drink. But nutritionally, pumpkin packs quite a punch! It is low in calories (one cup contains only around 50 calories), but has more vitamin A than carrots and more potassium than a banana. It’s a good source of fiber, too! Even the seeds boast protein, iron, and high levels of manganese, zinc, potassium, phosphorous and magnesium.

How to choose a fresh pumpkin | UPMC Health Plan

Store your pumpkin in a cool, dark place to increase the shelf life. Most squash can be stored this way for up to three months.

In my next post, I’ll round up some healthy and tasty pumpkin and pumpkin seed recipes. So get your gourds ready!