A few days ago, I bought a 20 pound pumpkin for four dollars. Meanwhile the store wanted to sell me squash for $1.80 a pound!
Pumpkins, as you might guess being an orange food, are very high in beta-carotene, the same thing that makes carrots good for you. (In your body, Beta-carotene turns into Vitamin A.) But pumpkins taste better than carrots. Pumpkins are also high in Potassium, same as bananas.
Roasting Pumpkin Seeds
I can't believe that for years I've been throwing away the pumpkin seeds when I carve a Jack O'Lantern and then grocery stores are selling roasted pumpkin seeds for nine dollars a pound.
Use a melon-baller or ice-cream scoop to scoop the pulp and seeds out of the pumpkin.
An easy way to separate the pumpkin seeds from the strings (pulp) is to throw the whole mess into a large bowl of water or a bucket of water. Stir it around with your fingers, gently rubbing here and there and the seeds will float to the surface while the strings will sink or at least separate.
Spread the pumpkin seeds out on a cookie sheet, and for the seeds from a medium-sized pumpkin (up to 20 pounds), add about three tablespoons of oil and five tablespoons of lemon juice. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes at 275 F. Add salt and pepper.
Pumpkin Seeds don't have much water in them, so they will cool off quickly. If you dump them from the cookie sheet onto a plate, they should be cool enough to eat in a few minutes.
Eating the Eyes
The pieces that you carve out of a Jack O'Lantern are edible. Rinse them, and then just plop them into a covered microwave-safe dish and microwave them, without any added liquid, for 15 minutes. They are not naturally "sweet", but rather taste very similar to Zucchini or Acorn Squash. You can "sweeten" your dish by adding butter, brown sugar, honey or just plain sugar. Or maybe you just want to add a little salt. Your choice! You can eat the skin, it's slightly thicker than an apple skin, perfectly safe, doesn't have much taste, but it's high in fiber and beta-carotene!
Pumpkins naturally have a lot of water in them. If you try to microwave these with added liquid they will just turn into pumpkin mush. They can steam, as they are, in their own water. That's why you want to use a covered dish, not an open one.
If you want to bake them instead, it's best to wrap them in aluminum foil and bake them as you would a potato, for about 30 to 40 minutes at 350. The purpose of the aluminum foil is to keep the moisture inside, otherwise you're going to end up with very chewy pumpkin!
Eating the Body
You want an appetite, because a twenty pound pumpkin makes a lot of cooked pumpkin! Cut the body into chunks about the size of a hamburger patty. Microwave in a covered, microwave-safe, casserole dish, with no added liquid, for 15 minutes. Let it sit, for 2 minutes before opening as it will be very hot. This also gives the skin a chance to separate more.
You can easily pull the skin off the cooked pumpkin, or just leave it on and serve it that way. Or you can use a spoon to scoop the pumpkin off its skin. Just remember to let the chunks cool down, as they will be very hot, just out of the microwave. The skin is edible, just a little chewy. Add butter, brown sugar, lemon or salt ! Tastes similar to Zucchini or Acorn Squash.
You can make Pumpkin Puree out of the cooked chunks, using a blender, provided you remove the skins. You could of course mash them by hand but who does that anymore? While pureeing them, add some milk, cloves and brown sugar. If your mixture ends up too soupy, eat it as soup! Otherwise make it into a pudding, or bake it into a bread. The other day, I decided to use less sugar and try throwing in six strawberries instead. Interesting flavor, not too bad. The flavor becomes more interesting if you reduce it a bit (by cooking).
You can freeze or can the pumpkin puree as well for use at another time. I would not recommend freezing the pumpkin in chunk form, because of the risk of freezer burn.
So I made a type of no-stove pumpkin soup that's sweet (above), but I'm thinking you could make a type of pumpkin soup that's also spicy or savory. Something like onions, garlic, pepper.... milk ? I wonder how that would taste. Would you want to add brown sugar and cloves to something like that? Or would that be horrible? You could make all that in the microwave, and use a blender to puree the entire mixture, but I'll have to experiment with the measurements.
You've made apple sauce, now make pumpkin sauce.
Three cups of cooked pumpkin, cut into bite-sized chunks
1/2 cup of milk, 1/2 cup of orange juice
6 strawberries (or a diced peach or apricot or banana)
Four tablespoons brown sugar, 1 teaspoon cloves
Puree and serve cold or warm.
Eating the Skin
Yes Virginia you can eat the skin. I haven't quite perfected my recipe for Pumpkin Chips, but I think it's possible. I just need to bake them longer than I have so far, in order to get all their moisture to leave. Otherwise you end up with slightly crunchy, slightly soggy chips. Has anyone done this? I'd like to know how long you baked them. Also how do you prevent the oil that you have to bake them in, from leaving them soggy?
There is probably a better recipe for the skin, instead of trying to make it into Chips. The Chips that I tried turn out either very hard, or a little too chewy. I'm wondering now, if you couldn't cook the skin to the point where it dissolves ?
Eating the Pulp
Believe it or don't. Yes you can eat the pulp.
Again, take your cookie sheet, cover it with aluminum foil and curl up the edges of the foil. Now cover that with a sheet of waxed paper. Spread the pulp out on this, and add three tablespoons of oil and three of lemon juice. Bake for 15 minutes at 275. My timing may be off here, you want the strings to be a dark brown, possibly even slightly carbonized (think caramelized onions, or toasted bread look). You will end up with an oily, lemony, and very crunchy treat. Your guests will keep asking you what it is and you'll just smile as they all fall dead. Just a little cooking humor.