Chef Broc superimposed on a set of pumpkins

Broc’s Everything Pumpkin

Hello families!  We are transitioning into fall with the scent of pumpkin spice everywhere.  This month we focus on pumpkins; their goodness, their tastiness, their varieties, and the simple joys!  Come join me on this pumpkin-learning adventure.

Nutritional Value of Pumpkins

Pumpkins are a superfood!  Grab your cape and prepare yourself for what one cup of pumpkin will provide you:

 1 Cup Raw1 Cup cooked (not canned)
Carbohydrates8 g12 g
Fiber1 g3 g
Protein1 g2 g
Sugars <1g5 g

While pumpkin is cholesterol and fat-free, it is also a super source of fiber, vitamins, and minerals.  Pumpkin is rich in vitamin A (beta-carotene) which supports healthy skin, teeth, and vision.  Other vitamins including C and E support our immune systems and provide a youthful appearance to the skin.  Pumpkins can also provide potassium, riboflavin, copper, manganese, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, and folate.  So good for your body to grow, move and learn!

A collection of pumpkins
A collection of pumpkins

Health Benefits of Pumpkins

This powerhouse fruit packs a punch in defending our bodies and supporting various bodily functions along the way:

  • Lowers disease risk-the antioxidants and zinc can battle against diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, heart disease, and some cancers
  • Helps with healthy blood pressure– using fiber, potassium, and vitamin C to regulate this function
  • Keeps you regular-fiber aids in healthy digestion and processing
  • Assists in maintaining a healthy weight– high fiber content gives us a feeling of fullness and will curb the sensation to snack
  • Supports skin health– vitamin C helps produce collagen (keeping the skin’s youthful glow) and defends against the sun’s damaging rays

Best Pumpkins to Use in Cooking

The word pumpkin is derived from the Greek word “pepon” which means large melon.  Pumpkins are members of the Cucurbitaceae plant family that mostly grow on vines.  They are related to cucumbers and melons.  All parts of the pumpkin plant are edible!

There are over 70 varieties of pumpkins worldwide.  Pumpkins need lots of space, water and warm weather to grow.  The top five producing states in America are Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and California.  Morton, Illinois has claimed to be the “Pumpkin Capital of the World.”

Other than your typical pie pumpkin, here are some pumpkin examples used for cooking:

Pumpkin VarietyColorWeight RangeBest UseOther
CasperWhite skin, deep orange fleshUp to 15 lbs.Versatile use 
Cherokee BushOrange skin, yellow flesh5-8 lbs.Roast or puree 
CinderellaAll orange15 inches acrossSoupsFlat shape
Cushaw GreenWhite/Green-striped skin, creamy color flesh20 inches longRoast, Puree, steam, in a saladLong squash
Dill’s AtlanticAll orangeLargeSoup, stew, or butter 
Fairy TaleFaded orange skin, dark orange fleshUp to 15 lbs.Bake, soup, stew 
JarrahdaleGreen-blue skin, orange flesh5-8 lbs.Pies, roast, stew, soupStringless
Musquee de ProvenceMulticolor skin (brown to pink), orange flesh10-20 lbs.Versatile use 
Pepitas HybridSpeckled green-yellow skin, light yellow flesh9-12 lbs.Bake, soups, stew, snacking seedsHull-less seeds
Red Warty ThingAll deep orangeUp to 20 lbs.Bake, roast, pickle, freezeTough rind-will store very long
Rouge Vif D’EtampesVivid red skin, orange flesh10-15 lbs.Bake, soup, curriesFlat shape

Some varieties grown in Massachusetts consist of Baby Pam, Autumn Gold, Ghost Rider, New England Pumpkin Pie, Lumina (white), Cinderella and Fairy Tale.  Look for them at your local farmers’ markets or farm stands, click here  There are over 200 farms in Massachusetts where you could purchase pumpkins and 66 of those offer a Pick-Your-Own opportunity, click here

Pumpkin on rice
Pumpkin on rice

Various Ways to Eat Pumpkins

Most pumpkins can be baked, roasted, and steamed or added to soups and stews.  Chunks can be added to chili, frittatas, risotto, pizzas, casseroles, or lasagna.  From a puree, it can be made into hummus, curry sauce, a marinara sauce, smoothies, pancakes, muffins, bread, scones, cookies, snack bars or layered in a parfait or trifle, mixed into oatmeal, or baked as a good, old-fashioned pumpkin pie.  Try this mouth-watering dinner recipe with your family:

Plate of pumpkin seeds
Plate of pumpkin seeds

Most pumpkins have up to 500 seeds inside!  Try roasting the seeds for a healthy snack.  Here is an easy step-by-step recipe:

  1. Wash your hands and the pumpkin.
  2. Cut an opening in the top and scoop out the pulp and seeds.
  3. Remove the pulp from the seeds and pat them dry.
  4. Toss the seeds with olive oil and your favorite seasonings (minimally salt and pepper).
  5. Roast in a pre-heated oven at 450° for 12 minutes, mix around every 4 minutes to ensure even baking.

Safely Storing Pumpkin

WholeCool dry spot, no sunlightUp to 3 months
Prepared ChunksIn a sealed container or bagIn the refrigerator for 1 week
Cooked/PureedIn a sealed container or bagIn the freezer for 1 year
SeedsToasted, in a sealed container or bag, in a cool, dry place2-3 months or 1 year in the refrigerator

Life Cycle of Pumpkins

From seed to pumpkin, this plant takes between 90-120 days to grow.

Pumpkins waiting to be picked
Pumpkins waiting to be picked

Seed to sprout to vine to flower to fruit bulb to mature pumpkin.

Pumpkins need lots of space, water, and warm weather. Pumpkins range in almost all colors of the rainbow; red, orange, yellow, green and blue, even black and white.

Read About Pumpkins with Children

For more details on the history of pumpkins, details of their life cycle, parts and uses, check out these books from your local library:

  1. Pumpkins Board Book, by Gail Gibbons, 2019, Ages 0-3 years
  2. La Cosecha de Calabazas/Pumpkin Harvest, by Calvin Harris, 2016, Ages 4-7 years (multilingual-Spanish)
  3. From Seed to Pumpkin, by Wendy Pfeffer, 2015, includes recipes and experiments, Ages 4-8 years
  4. How to Help a Pumpkin Grow, by Ashley Wolff, 2021, Ages 4-8 years
  5. Pumpkin Circle: The Story of the Garden, by George Levenson, 2002, Ages 5-8 years
  6. Pumpkins (non-fiction), by Victoria Blakemore, 2017, Ages 6-10 years
Mom reading to her daughter
Mom reading to her daughter

Get Moving with these Pumpkin Activities

Not only do we need to eat healthy, but we need to move our bodies.  Why not do it with a pumpkin?!?!

Play this tune, I Love Pumpkins on YouTube, by Harry Kindergarten Music, and lift those pumpkins high:

Enjoy fall, pumpkins, and cooler weather!  – Broc


Pumpkin Education – Pumpkins and More – University of Illinois Extension:

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