The jack-o-lantern season may be over. But that’s no reason to deny yourself the health benefits of adding edible pumpkins to your diet. And no, we’re not giving you the green light to eat all the sugar-laden, cream-topped pumpkin pie you want. Canned or fresh cooked, pumpkins are high in fiber, low in calories and packed with vitamin A. They’re also a rich source of important antioxidants. Wait, did we just say “edible pumpkins?” You caught us. Technically, all pumpkins can be consumed, but some are a lot tastier than others. Weighing in at only 26 calories per ½-cup serving, pumpkin is helpful for anyone trying to minimize their daily calorie intake. With a high fiber content and natural sweetness, it only takes a small portion to provide a big helping of satisfaction.
Even the seeds of the mighty pumpkin are dense in nutrition. One-quarter cup of pumpkin seeds provides almost half the recommended daily amount of magnesium. Pumpkin seeds also offer anti-inflammatory benefits and ease menopausal symptoms. It also helps improve insulin regulation, promote restful sleep and support prostate health.
Think beyond pie to get the most from this super squash. Pumpkin dishes to try at home include:
- Pumpkin soup
- Roasted pumpkin
- Pumpkin in curries
- Pumpkin bread/muffins (The creaminess of pumpkin helps keep gluten-free recipes moist.)
- Add cooked pumpkin to oatmeal or smoothies
- Pumpkin hummus
- Pumpkin chili
- Top a salad with pumpkin seeds
- Pumpkin ravioli
- Use cooked pumpkin as a condiment for grilled sandwiches or paninis
- Pumpkin enchiladas
- Pumpkin on pizza
The Best Edible Pumpkins to Try
Pumpkin is a staple ingredient in many world cuisines including French, Thai and Native American. There are as many shapes and colors of this garden favorite as there are fall leaves, each with their own unique flavors and textures that suit specific types of recipes and cooking methods. As we said, all pumpkins can be eaten, but those bred specifically for Halloween carving aren’t the most delicious. Wander a little farther into the pumpkin patch and you’ll find varieties of edible pumpkin to delight the palate and expand your culinary horizons.
Baby Pam – These adorable cultivars weigh around three to four pounds. The flesh is starchy, stringless and has a high sugar content. Along with the popular Sugar Pie and the lesser known Long Island Cheese pumpkin, Baby Pams are ideal for making pie and pumpkin butter.
Cinderella – Named for their resemblance to the fairy tale heroine’s pumpkin-turned-carriage, the Cinderella pumpkin, along with Autumn Gold and the unusual seafoam green Triamble are all large fruits with firm flesh that’s great for roasting and stewing.
Kabocha – Also known as the Buttercup pumpkin, Japanese Kabocha’s are popular for roasting or mashing as a side dish and make delectable pumpkin soup. The Fairytale pumpkin and the striking blue-gray Jarrahdale are also delicious for soups and purees.