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Pumpkin is a popular fall food

Christina Rittenbach, NDSU Extension

As we are now fully into the fall season, pumpkin seems to be a popular choice for consumers. Of course pumpkin pie is the traditional dessert for the Thanksgiving season, there are many ways to prepare and eat pumpkin. Pumpkins are technically a fruit, although many may consider them a vegetable since they are not naturally very sweet. However, fruit is the part of the plant that comes from the flower — which pumpkins do. Still, whether you consider them a fruit or a vegetable, pumpkins have many nutritional benefits. Pumpkins are packed with beta carotene, which is a pigment in some plants that our bodies turn into Vitamin A. Vitamin A does a lot of great things for us. It helps keep our skin and eyes healthy and works as an antioxidant to help prevent against some cancers. Pumpkins are also a great source of fiber, which works to keep our digestive system healthy. Pumpkin seeds are also rich in fiber, and can be a delicious snack when roasted and seasoned. You can purchase pumpkin fresh or canned. If you purchase it fresh, be sure to purchase the smaller sugar pumpkins. These pumpkins are less stringy and work better in recipes than the larger pumpkins that we use for jack-o-lanterns. To prepare your pumpkin for use in recipes, you will need to wash it, cut it in half, scoop out the seeds, and cook it. You can microwave, boil or bake pumpkins. Do this until the pulp is soft, and then remove the skin. Next you will want to mash the pulp, either by hand or in a blender. Now that your pumpkin is ready for baking, you can use it to make pies, cookies, cake, bars, soup and more. Be creative this fall in adding this healthy, nutrient-rich food into your diet. For pumpkin recipes, you can visit the NDSU Extension Service website at or contact Christina Rittenbach, Stutsman County Extension agent, at 252-9030 or christina.rittenbach@ndsu. edu.