Pumpkins have been cultivated for thousands of years. They are believed to have originated in Central America, and were an important food source for Native Americans, who used nearly every part of the pumpkin. For example, they dried strips of pumpkin rind and wove them into mats, they ate roasted pumpkin flesh, and they prized the nutritious oil-rich seeds for food as well as medicine. Not surprisingly, the pumpkin was a welcome discovery for this country’s early settlers, who soon learned to regard the vegetable as an important staple—not only on Thanksgiving, but also as an everyday side dish, as a soup, and for making beer.
A type of winter squash, the pumpkin is a hard-shelled gourd that grows on a trailing vine and is related to watermelons and muskmelons. Its shape is round, with depressions at both stem and blossom ends. Its color ranges through various shades of green to orange. Like other winter squash (and melons) pumpkins have a hollow interior containing edible seeds.
Types of Pumpkin
The large pumpkins used for Halloween decorations can be eaten, but there are better varieties of pumpkin for cooking. Here's a rundown of the various types, plus how to choose and store them.
Pumpkin provides a wealth of carotenoid pigments, including alpha carotene, beta carotene, and lutein. Some research suggest that carotenoid-rich foods help protect eye health. Pumpkin also offers healthy amounts of fiber, potassium, riboflavin, vitamin C, and iron. In addition, pumpkin is a good low-fat source of vitamin E.
For a full listing of nutrients, see Pumpkin in the National Nutrient Database.
7 Pumpkin Recipe Ideas
Go beyond pumpkin pie with these innovative ways to use pumpkin in savory dishes.