BUTLER, Mo. – Whole-pumpkin prices are on the high side this year, so smart consumers might want this Halloween fruit to do double duty. To safely recycle the jack-o’-lantern, you’ll need to forego carving.

Related radio news story by Debbie Johnson. For downloadable broadcast-quality audio, contact Johnson at 573-882-9183.

“If you carve it, it shouldn’t be cooked,” said Tammy Roberts, nutrition specialist for University of Missouri Extension. “But if you buy a large pumpkin and paint it with nontoxic paints, it’s then safe to roast, boil or microwave.”

Low in calories and a source of vitamins A and C, protein and potassium, pumpkin is great for pies, cakes and breads and a tasty addition to soups and stews.

Weight and stem length are important when choosing a pumpkin for cooking.

“You’ll want to choose a pumpkin that weighs between 2 and 6 pounds and has a stem that’s 1 to 2 inches long,” Roberts said. “If it doesn’t have much of a stem, that pumpkin will decay more quickly.”

Baking the pumpkin is easy.

“Cut the pumpkin in half and scoop out the seeds and stringy part,” Roberts said. “Then place the cut side down on a cookie sheet and bake it at 350 degrees until fork-tender, and that’s about an hour.”

Roberts said the microwave can cut that cooking time. Put the cut pumpkin onto a microwave-safe plate and cook for 15 minutes, or until fork-tender.

“To boil, cut the pumpkin into large chunks, rinse them in cold water and put them in a large pot with about an inch of water,” Roberts said. “Cover and boil for 20 to 30 minutes, or until the flesh is tender.”

Don’t try to peel the pumpkin before it’s cooked. No matter how it’s prepared, once the pumpkin is cooked, scrape the flesh from the skin and use a fork to make puree, Roberts said

All the seeds you removed before cooking are a snacking treasure, so don’t throw them out.

“Wash the seeds in warm water and spread them out to dry,” she said. “Once dried, spray a cooking pan with oil, spread the seeds in a single layer, spray the seeds with oil, add desired seasoning and bake at 250 degrees for 15 minutes.”

The seasoning is a matter of personal taste, Roberts said. You can use anything from salt to Cajun spices to popcorn cheese, or you can roast them without any seasoning.

Roberts said for every pound of whole pumpkin you’ll get one cup of pumpkin puree, which can be stored in the freezer.

“After you make the puree it can be frozen and stored for up to one year,” she said.

Home canning is an option for pumpkin chunks but not for the puree.

“Puree cannot be canned. Because it’s so thick, it’s hard to get the internal temperature needed to preserve it correctly,” Roberts said.

If you have several pumpkins but aren’t ready to cook them, Roberts said an uncovered pumpkin can be stored for several months if placed in a dry area with good air circulation and kept at 50-55 degrees.

More info and great recipes:

Pumpkins – From Harvest to Health: missourifamilies.org/features/nutritionarticles/harvesttohealth/pumpkin.htm.

Read more http://extension.missouri.edu/news/DisplayStory.aspx?N=1572


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