Poor pumpkin. Long ago, the ancients of North America gave the pumpkin a regular spot on the menu. But at some point between the early colonials and our embrace of Halloween, America relegated one of nature’s most nutritious squashes to the occasional pie and Jack o’ lantern. This, despite the pumpkin’s bright orange skin and garden bulk that shouts, “Hey, over here! Packed with nutrients.”
Well, it’s time to invite the pumpkin back to the table. Within that orange glow is a fat-free power package of antioxidants (courtesy of beta-carotene, which is also responsible for the color), fiber, potassium, vitamin A and more.
In fact, the health benefits of pumpkin surpass most winter squash and even carrots. Besides, who can deny the feel-good quality associated with the pumpkin—the pleasure of strolling through a pick-your-own pumpkin patch or stopping at a farm market to choose the biggest, brightest, weirdest-shaped specimens.
Although most folks prefer pie pumpkins for their Thanksgiving dessert, your run-of-the-patch variety will do for almost any recipe. To cook with pumpkin, treat it as you would any winter squash. Cut it up, scrape out the seeds, place in a pan with shallow water shell side up and bake at 325° for about an hour or until tender. Cool then scrape out the pulp and pulverize in a blender or a food processor. Divide into 1 to 2 cup portions to use fresh or freeze.
If the above sounds complicated, go ahead and use canned. You receive all the nutrition of fresh and maybe more so because the cans are so densely packed. Either way, pumpkin adds a smooth, mellow flavor and a wallop of good-for-you to many foods, like muffins, breads, soups and pasta sauces. And … it’s a natural with chili.
Try our favorite pumpkin chili recipe.
- 1 medium onion, peeled and diced
- 1 pound lean ground beef
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 15-ounce cans cannelloni beans, undrained
- 2 16-ounce cans of diced tomatoes, undrained
- 1 cup pumpkin, fresh-baked and pureed (or canned)
- 4 ounce can chopped green chilis
- 1 tablespoon cumin
- 1 tablespoon chili pepper
- 1 teaspoon unsweetened chocolate powder
- 1⁄2 teaspoon cinnamon
- Salt to taste
- Pepitas for garnish
- Cilantro for garnish
In a Dutch oven or large soup pot saute the beef and onions in the olive oil. Stir in the remaining ingredients and simmer covered for at least an hour, stirring occasionally. Garnish each bowl with chopped cilantro and pepitas.
Brake for a pumpkin at the nearest farm stand. Bake it as you would an acorn squash. When the flesh is soft, scoop it out of the shell and puree.
Omena Organics canned pumpkin is the product of a three-generation Leelanau County farm family. Find it at a number of Northern Michigan grocery stores or purchase it online at omenaorganics.com.
Northern Michigan-Raised Beef
Gallagher’s Farm Market and Bakery
7237 E Traverse Highway, Traverse City, 231.421.5199
Cottonwood Springs Farm
6192 S French Road, Cedar, 231.228.6578
2946 US 31 South, Kewadin, 231.264.5190
1723 Birgy Road, Fife Lake, 231.879.3949
Bufka Brothers Farm
575 East Valley Road, Maple City, 231.228.7884
Conant’s Maplehurst Farms
3904 M 88 North, Central Lake, 231.544.6664
Shetler Family Dairy & Farm Store
5436 Tyler Road SE, Kalkaska, 231.258.8216