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The Pumpkin Scoop

PumpkinsBoth Halloween and Thanksgiving are associated with that great vegetable - the pumpkin. It is hard to imagine Halloween without a jack-o-lantern and Thanksgiving without pumpkin pie.

The pumpkin is one of our earliest American icons. It not only is famous for being on the Plymouth Rock dining table of 1621; their dining guests - the North American native Indians, cultivated it.

There is a lot of history with the pumpkin. The Irish immigrants are given credit for the jack-o-lantern. We all have read and seen Cinderella in her pumpkin coach. Peter, Peter kept his wife in a pumpkin shell - what a home! Scariest was Ichabod Crane in "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" - nothing more than a jokester with a pumpkin under his arm riding at a fast clip to scare us all. And, of course, the pumpkin head Charlie Brown and Linus with his "Great Pumpkin" patch - how lovable.

The pumpkin is probably the most fun and most delicious vegetable around. It is a great fall vegetable. It has 80 calories a cup, low in sodium and potassium, it can provide 350% of the required daily allowance of vitamin A. All this with just a trace of fat.

Not all pumpkins are created equally, oops, I mean grown equally. When choosing look for a clean and mature pumpkin. No soft spots and it should be heavy for its relative size. The coloring should be accordingly to their variety. Carving pumpkins are generally bright orange. The pumpkin pie pumpkins are smaller, sweet, and meatier.

One pound of fresh pumpkin will yield one cup of cooked pumpkin. A pound of canned pumpkin will provide two cups of mashed pumpkin.

You cannot store a pumpkin forever. Store whole pumpkin at 50 - 60 degrees - making sure the shell is hard and the stem is unbroken.

If the pumpkin has been cut store in the refrigerator.

Pumpkin PatchCooking a fresh pumpkin is easy. After you scoop out the coarse interior fiber and seeds, just boil, bake, steam, or microwave.

When boiling, place the cubed pumpkin in a small amount of water and boil until tender to the fork. Probably between 25 - 30 minutes. Drain when finished.

Steaming a pumpkin is easy by placing the pumpkin on a wire over boiling water in a steamer. Cook until tender.

Bake a pumpkin in a shallow dish at 350 degrees until tender. Probably around one to one and a half hours.

Using the microwave is quick and fast. Place the pumpkin in a shallow glass dish. Microwave on high for about 10 minutes.

After the pumpkin is cooked peal off the outer skin and mash. Use either a blender, food processor, or by hand.

At this point, find your favorite pie recipe.

The seeds of the pumpkin are also great to eat. Roasted in the oven is best. Sprinkle with oil and garlic salt and bake at 350 degrees for about 20 - 30 minutes or until brown and toasty. The seeds will be crispy when cool. Store in the refrigerator.