Healthy Recipes

Put that Pumpkin to Good Use

Is there any gourd more celebrated than the pumpkin? The plump autumnal staple is the stuff of legends—a carriage for Cinderella’s night out and a head for Jack, from the Irish myth of Jack of the Lantern (aka Jack-O-Lantern). When the slightest whiff of frost graces the late summer air, pumpkins are suddenly everywhere, usually with “spice” tagged onto the label in the form of lattes, cookies, and cakes. Stores pile them in front of their entranceways in all shapes and colors, and then we do the same at our own homes. We flock with our children to local pumpkin patches in search of the perfect specimen to adorn our porches, and save a few for carving.

It’s strange to think that many of the pumpkins plucked and purchased will not be eaten. Maybe a few seeds will be roasted but the meat of the pumpkin mostly goes untouched. That’s unfortunate because pumpkin is a nutrient-rich vegetable packed with vitamins and minerals that can help with skin, heart, and immune system health. Here are a few ways to prepare your pumpkins this season, but don’t worry, you can easily use frozen, canned, or pre-cut pumpkin for your dishes if dicing up a whole gourd seems like too much work.

Good morning, Pumpkin!

If you skip piling on sugary syrup and too much butter, pancakes can be a healthy and filling way to start the weekend. Shake up your routine by adding pumpkin to your cakes as well as cinnamon, ground ginger, and pumpkin pie spice. CookingLight offers an easy recipe that calls for pumpkin purée. Add a bit of Greek yogurt topping for a protein boost.

While you savor your breakfast, share this pumpkin trivia with your family: A New Hampshire farmer produced the heaviest pumpkin ever grown in the United States in 2018. It weighed 2,528 pounds. That’s a lot of pancakes.

Lunch in the tropics

Dreaming of a Caribbean getaway? Yeah, me too. Bring the flavors of warmer climes to your kitchen with this Saveur recipe. Put on some smooth bachata music as you add pumpkin or butternut squash to a pot, along with bay leaf, mild curry powder, nutmeg, lime, and a host of other spices. If your goal is authenticity, then you really want a green-skinned calabaza-type pumpkin, which can be found in local Latinx markets. This dish calls for heavy cream. Embrace the calorie count or swap cream for coconut milk instead.

If you crave something sweet after lunch, then consider this: the largest pumpkin pie ever baked was served in Ohio in 2010. The behemoth dessert weighed 3,699 pounds and measured over 20 feet in diameter.

Dinner is served

One of my favorite take-out dishes from my local Thai food spot is pumpkin curry spooned over jasmine rice. It’s the perfect Friday comfort food after a long week. You can make your own version of this flavorful dish and adjust the spice level to your liking. Set your rice cooker up fist, and then throw together this easy recipe from Bon Appétit. My Thai place uses large chunks of pumpkin, but this recipe calls for pumpkin purée and roasted butternut squash, plus one pound of shrimp which you could replace with tofu or chicken, depending on your mood. Top with cilantro, lime zest, and fried shallots. Serve over cauliflower rice if you’re looking to cut carbs.

If you’re dreaming of planting your own pumpkins next year and turning a few into a curry or soup, plan ahead. Sow your seeds in May or June and then wait the 90 to 120 days for them to mature. Pumpkins need space to roam and spread out, and therefore are not good balcony plants. I grew deep rust-hued pumpkins in my garden this year. I cooked exactly none of them. They are, of course, placed artistically in my stoop, a decorative symbol of the season.