The great pumpkin

With Halloween just 12 days away, Recycla’s children are planning for the Big Day.  Granted, they’ve been thinking about Halloween since August, but now their costumes are done, they’re actively planning their “get the most candy” strategies.

For Recycla, however, October means something else entirely:  pumpkins.

Pumpkins are one of Recycla’s favorite parts about Halloween and fall in general.  She loves their cheerful orange color and the way her front porch looks with pumpkins marching up the stairs.

She also loves seeing how creative other people get when carving their pumpkins.  This is a skill that Recycla does not possess  — when Recycla carves a pumpkin, it looks like the victim of a tragic knife accident.  So she is in awe of other people’s carving prowess.

For those of you who like to carve pumpkins and then light them on Halloween, Recycla encourages you to exchange those candles for white Christmas lights.  The pumpkins will look terrific, but without the risk of a small child getting burned by the flame.

Recycla does not carve her pumpkins — not because she mangles them badly, but because she wants to be able to cook the pumpkins after Halloween.  Recycla loves how much better fresh pumpkin tastes than canned and loves to use it in pumpkin pie, pumpkin muffins, pumpkin pancakes, pumpkin cookies, and more!

pumpkinsgreenDid you know that pumpkins are GOOD for you?  Rich in potassium, a nutrient that helps maintain blood pressure and kidney function, pumpkin has a high fiber content, which has been linked to a lower risk of heart disease. Pumpkin flesh also contains a lot of vitamin C — an antioxidant essential for healthy skin and gums.  Pumpkins also contain beta-carotene, which is good for your eyes.

If you like pumpkin seeds, you’re in luck:  Pepitas contain many nutrients, including bone-strengthening magnesium and copper. On top of that, the seeds contain cholesterol-lowering phytosterols and omega-3 fatty acids, which help reduce inflammation and may help prevent heart disease.

Recycla’s children are big fans of her pumpkin muffins, so she ends up baking them at least once per month.  (To make the recipe even healthier than it already is, Recycla substitutes a cup of whole wheat flour for an equal amount of the white flour.)

Several years ago, Recycla decided to try making her own pumpkin puree instead of buying it in a can.  She was astounded by the difference in color and flavor!  Since then, she has foresworn canned pumpkin and instead makes enough pumpkin puree every fall to last her family for the next twelve months, during which time she bakes with it, but also sneaks pumpkin into other recipes to make them a bit healthier.

Cooking pumpkins is incredibly easy — here’s how:

  • Get your pumpkins.  The small pie pumpkins have the best flavor, but you can use just about any pumpkins, even the big ones.
  • Chop the pumpkins into smaller pieces and place rind-side-up on a greased baking sheet.
  • Bake until the pumpkins are thoroughly cooked. (You can also microwave them, but Recycle uses the oven so that she can cook more at the same time.)
  • After the pumpkin has cooled, scoop out the pulp and put it in your food processor.
  • Process until smooth.
  • The pumpkin puree needs to be drained, so line a colander with a cheesecloth and place in a large bowl.  If you don’t have cheesecloth, use a small-mesh sieve.
  • Put the puree into the lined colander and let sit for an hour.  During that hour, you will need to pour off the liquid that accumulates in the bowl so that it doesn’t overflow.  (Use the nutrient-rich liquid to water your plants.)
  • Scoop the puree in one- or two-cup increments into freezer safe containers or bags.
  • Freeze until needed for up to a year.

Recycla has come across some great pumpkin recipes recently, including pumpkin whoopie pies, maple pumpkin spice lattes, pumpkin cheesecake, and pumpkin caramel bars with bacon.  If that’s not enough pumpkin for you, here’s an article with 100 pumpkin recipes.

As for your pumpkin rinds and seeds, don’t throw them in the trash!  Chop up the rinds and toss them in your compost bin.  As for the seeds, if you want to grow pumpkins next year, toss them in your garden now and cover them with a little dirt.  Most of them will germinate next summer.  If you don’t want to grow pumpkins, how about putting the seeds outside for your neighborhood birds?

Tell the Eco Women:  What do you do with your pumpkins?  Is there a recipe you particularly like?

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