If you thought pumpkin was only good for pies, think again. These bright and beautiful members of the squash family are low in calories, high in fiber, and bursting with rich, nutty flavor that is delicious on its own and a perfect compliment to both sweet and savory holiday dishes.
Believed to be native to North America, pumpkins have been cultivated and consumed for millenia. Evidence of pumpkin seeds in Mexico dates back as far as 7000 BCE.
Pumpkins are a staple part of cuisine around the world, and with good reason; they’re hardy, easy to grow, and nutritious. The flesh is high in fiber, vitamin A, and beta carotene, and the seeds are a good source of protein, zinc, tryptophan, manganese, phosphorous, and magnesium.
In the US most people count on canned, pre-processed pumpkin for cooking and use whole pumpkins mainly for seasonal decorations like Halloween jack-o-lanterns, but ripe pumpkins are actually a great choice for kitchen duty.
In fact just about all parts of the pumpkin are edible – the flesh can be boiled, baked, steamed, roasted, or mashed, the seeds can be roasted, and the leaves and the flowers can use used either raw or cooked in soups, salads, and mixed vegetable dishes. Even the shell is edible; it can be candied and enjoyed as a seasonal sweet.
If you’ve only enjoyed pumpkin in holiday pies, you’re missing some good eating. Here’s a simple recipe for a delicious fruit-stuffed baked pumpkin that’s great as a dessert, side dish, or even special breakfast!
Fruit-Stuffed Baked Pumpkin
– One small pumpkin (2 – 3 pounds)
– 2 apples
– 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
– 1 cup whole cranberries
– 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
– 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
– 1/2 cup drained canned pineapple chunks
– 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
Cut the top off the pumpkin and set aside. Scoop out seeds. Place pumpkin in a shallow pan and bake at 350 for about 50 minutes to 1 hour, or until the flesh is soft.
While the pumpkin is baking, core and roughly chop the apples, then whirl in food processor or blender until chunky. Add pineapple, cranberries, walnuts, and spices and process until just mixed – you want the filling to be chunky.
When pumpkin has baked until tender, remove it from the oven and spoon filling into it, then replace the top. Return to the oven and bake another 45 minutes, until the filling is hot and bubbly.
Serve as is, or top with a pat of sweet butter, a dollop of whipped cream, or even a scoop of ice cream. It’s a great addition to any holiday meal!