We can almost see you rolling your eyes through the screen. Yes, we're a little tired of pumpkin spice, too. But what we appreciate about that trend is that it saved our favorite gourd from the Halloween ghetto. However, the extra large breeds used for jack o'lanterns are best saved for carving because smaller pumpkins offer more sweetness and flavor. Those are the ones you ought to be cooking with and eating, with or without aromatic spices.
A type of winter squash, pumpkins are native to North America and we grow a lot of them. More than 1.5 billion pounds of pumpkins are produced every year, and Illinois, Ohio, Pennsylvania, California and Indiana are the top producing states. Pumpkins can be grown on every continent except Antarctica. That's right, they will even grow in Alaska! This crop is usually planted at the beginning of July and harvested in October.
Pumpkins are versatile and most parts can be eaten, including the seeds, leaves, fleshy shell and flowers. You can boil, roast or steam them, and make tasty savory dishes like warm salad, risotto or soup, or sweet treats such as pumpkin pie or pumpkin spice latte. The seeds may be roasted and enjoyed as a snack or used to garnish pumpkin soup while the flowers can be battered and fried to make an unusual garnish.
So is this a nutritious vegetable? Actually yes. Pumpkin is rich in fiber, which slows digestion to keep you feeling full for longer but is 90 percent water so it also keeps you hydrated. It's low in calories and rich in manganese, Vitamin C and potassium, as well as beta-carotene which converts to Vitamin A in the body and helps keep the eyes healthy.
In a Starring Role at: Seasons 52
Seasons 52 bases their menu on what's fresh and in season. Their menus are inspired by the season and they use open-fire grilling as well as brick oven roasting to showcase the flavors of these fresh delights. Their menu lists calorie counts so if you want to eat light, you will be able to see your best options.
I recommend the cheese fondue. It's appetizer-sized and perfect for 2 people to share. Seasons 52 also offers healthy option desserts, so you might like to sample the pumpkin pie—a delectable concoction of pumpkin mousse and gingersnap cookie. At only 310 calories, you won't have too much to feel guilty about either!
Recipe: Vegetarian Pumpkin Tacos
Beef, pork and chicken tacos are all gorgeous, but how about less carnivorous options? You don't have to be vegetarian to enjoy meatless food occasionally and sometimes it's nice to revel in the flavor of a seasonal vegetable, showcasing it in the main dish rather than simply serving it on the side. If you aren't vegetarian, you can swap the vegetable stock for chicken stock, since that would work, too.
The following recipe takes 15 minutes or less to prepare, and includes plenty of wonderful fresh ingredients like tomato, cilantro and onion, along with the seasonal pumpkin which offers a distinctive sweet flavor and smooth texture. If you want to make burritos instead, swap the corn tortillas for flour ones and add a layer of rice and black beans under the pumpkin mixture.
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 cups fresh pumpkin, in 1/2-inch cubes
- 1 tablespoon ground cumin
- Salt and black pepper, to taste
- Cayenne pepper, to taste (optional)
- 1/2 cup vegetable stock
- 12 warmed corn tortillas
- 1/2 diced small avocado
- 1 diced Roma tomato
- 1/2 diced small red onion
- Sour cream, queso fresco and/or fresh cilantro to serve (optional)
Heat the oil in a skillet, then sautée the pumpkin for a couple of minutes over moderate heat. Next stir in the cumin, salt and pepper, and pour in the vegetable stock. You can add some cayenne pepper, too, if you want some extra heat. Keep cooking the mixture for another 7 minutes or until the pumpkin is tender, giving it an occasional stir. Don't overcook the pumpkin—it should be tender but not mushy. Now you can spoon this mixture into the tortillas and sprinkle the avocado, tomato and onion on top. Serve with sour cream and/or queso fresco and garnish with fresh chopped cilantro if desired.
Stay tuned every week to learn more about what's new and fresh at the market and where you can enjoy the delicious bounty of the season.