What’s in Season: Pumpkin by Emily Weeks, RDN, LD

Every fall when the weather cools, pumpkins rise in popularity. Used both for decorative and culinary purposes, pumpkins are not only pretty, they’re also delicious and healthy! Pumpkins are most commonly served in pumpkin pie form at Thanksgiving, but they have a variety of uses.

What’s in Season: Pumpkin Pumpkins are planted in early May through June and harvested in the fall months. Pumpkins are a type of winter squash with smooth, slightly ribbed orange skin. The inside contains thick flesh, pulp, and seeds.
 

Picking the Right Type of Pumpkin

 
There are many varieties of pumpkin. Sugar pumpkins (also called pie pumpkins) can be found in September and October at farmers markets and grocery stores and should feel very heavy for its size. They have dark orange skin and the inside flesh is very thick, which is why sugar pumpkins are used in soups, baking, pasta dishes, and so much more.
 
Field pumpkins, also called carving pumpkins, are larger and less sweet than pie pumpkins. They are typically used for carving jack o’ lanterns because they have a small amount of pale orange flesh—which makes it easier to carve for festive designs.
 
With either type of pumpkin, don’t forget to save the pumpkin seeds! Pumpkin seeds, called pepitas, are delicious and full of nutrients. They can be eaten raw or roasted with salt. Flat, light green, and oval shaped, these tasty seeds are a good source of protein, magnesium, and zinc.
 

Why People with Diabetes Should Eat Pumpkin

 
Pumpkin flesh, whether pureed or diced and roasted, is high in vitamin A. This gives the pumpkin its bright orange or yellow color. Vitamin A supports vision and immune function in the body. Pumpkin is also a good source of vitamin C, potassium, copper, and manganese.
 
There are three grams of fiber in one cup of pumpkin puree. Eating plenty of fiber throughout the day can help keep our gastrointestinal systems regular and support the growth of beneficial gut bacteria. Pumpkin also contains a lower amount of carbohydrate per serving and plenty of fiber to help slow digestion.
 

How to Store Pumpkins

 
You can store fresh whole pumpkins in a cool, dry place for 30 to 90 days. Be sure to wash the outside of the pumpkin before storing. Raw, cut pumpkin can be stored in the fridge for about a week.
 
Canned pumpkin puree is available year-round. An unopened can of pureed pumpkin usually lasts three to five years. Once you open a can of pumpkin, try to use it within a week. You can also freeze pumpkin puree in a freezer bag and thaw when you need it.
 
Canned pumpkin can be used in many baking dishes, including muffins, bread, pies, and cakes. It also makes delicious pasta sauces, ravioli or lasagna filling, and a creamy addition to soups. However, be sure to check the can carefully to make sure you are not buying canned pumpkin pie. Canned pumpkin pie is often full of added sugars that can throw off your blood glucose (blood sugar) and carbohydrate count.

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