Plated: Pumpkins

By Rebecca Turner

Is a pumpkin a fruit or a vegetable? A pumpkin is a fruit simply because anything that starts from a flower is botanically a fruit. In Mississippi, farmers start planting pumpkin seeds in early to mid-July, depending on the variety, to ensure the perfect pumpkin for picking in a pumpkin patch or carving for Halloween.

Are pumpkins healthy to eat? Yes! Pumpkins are low in calories and rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, making them incredibly healthy to eat. The phytonutrients in pumpkins can boost your immune system, protect your eyesight, reduce your risk of certain cancers, and promote heart and skin health.

Can you bake with regular pumpkins? Yes, but it’s a hassle! Most pumpkin varieties will bake, but they’re very stringy, bland, and watery. The best baking pumpkin varieties are smaller with sweet and smooth-textured flesh. Unless you want to go the extra mile, utilize canned pumpkin puree for baking. Pumpkin puree acts as a sweetener, provides moisture, and can be an adequate fat substitute in anything from muffins to soups. But pumpkin is unlike other baking ingredients, be careful not to misuse it. Avoid using pumpkin puree as a blanket substitute for sugar and butter. Instead, use pumpkin puree in recipes that call for it, or look for recipes that use applesauce as their moisture and fat and substitute the pumpkin puree 1:1 for the applesauce.

Can you use pumpkin pie filling in place of pumpkin puree? No! Make sure you are reaching for pumpkin puree and not pumpkin pie filling for baking. Every can of pumpkin pie filling has different amounts of sugar and spices. Typically, you’re adding that to the recipe already, and you won’t know how to adjust. If you accidentally grab pie filling instead of puree, turn it into pie using the recipe on the back!

Are pumpkins good for wildlife? Yes! Many Mississippi wildlife enjoys pumpkin flesh and seeds. Toss pumpkins into the woods instead of into the trash. Just be sure not to feed animals old painted pumpkins, which can be toxic.

This fall, whether you bake with pumpkins or not, visit a Mississippi pumpkin patch or corn maze and share your new pumpkin knowledge with neighbors on a hayride!

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