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Pumpkins for Halloween and Beyond

Pumpkins add color not only in decorating, but also in our diet.

Nashville, Ark. – Pumpkins, pumpkins, pumpkins! Everywhere you look right now you see pumpkins in all sizes, shapes and colors. Leaves changing colors, scarecrows and pumpkins herald in the change of season even if the weather does not cooperate. Pumpkins are a staple of fall decorating since they can be used for Halloween decorating and beyond.

            Pumpkins add color not only in decorating, but also in our diet. Rich in nutrients and low in calories, just one half cup of canned pumpkin provides 4 grams of fiber, no fat or cholesterol, and only 50 calories. It also has more beta carotene to vitamin A, and that may protect against heart disease and some cancers.

            The most common use for pumpkins is for carving, but if you are using it for cooking, look for pie or sweet varieties. These pumpkins are usually smaller and have a sweeter flesh that is less watery. So when choosing a pumpkin for decorating, look for the Jack-O-Lantern size and choose the smaller ones for eating. However, you can still eat the smaller ones after you have used them in decorating, as long as they show no signs of spoilage. Do not eat the Jack-O-Lantern style pumpkins once you have cut a face in them and allowed them to sit outside.

            To peel a pumpkin, cut off the top and then cut a thin horizontal slice off of the bottom. This will help the pumpkin sit flat on your cutting board. Using a large knife, cut slices of the skin off from top to bottom, working your way around the pumpkin. Cut the pumpkin in half and scoop out the seeds and stringy pulp. Discard the pulp. If you would like to save the seeds for roasting later, then thoroughly clean the seeds and set them aside. Cut the now empty remaining pumpkin into chunks.

            Pumpkin puree can be made by steaming the pumpkin chunks until they are tender. Drain them well. Place the chunks in a food processor or blender and until they are pureed. You can also use a potato masher. To remove any strings that might remain, strain the puree through a fine sieve or strainer.

            Another alternative is to bake the unpeeled, seeded pumpkin halves in a 325 degree oven for about one hour or until tender. Scoop out the flesh and then puree. This will yield a drier filling, so you won’t need to drain the filling like you would if you steam it. Use the pumpkin puree for your favorite recipes immediately, or you may freeze it for up to one year in a freezer-safe container.

            You can also purchase canned pumpkin. The work has been done and it is convenient. It also works well in most recipes. When purchasing canned pumpkin, be sure to buy plain pumpkin and not pumpkin pie filling which has sugar and spices already mixed in. Read the label carefully to make sure you are buying what you think you are buying.

            Pumpkin is a fall favorite! And it is for more than just decorating. Experiment with different recipes containing pumpkins. Muffins, cookies, loaf breads, cakes, dips, made with pumpkin are all delicious! If you would like to receive a free handout on pumpkins, including how to roast pumpkin seeds, contact me at the Howard County Cooperative Extension Service by calling 870-845-7517. You may also visit our office located on the second floor of the courthouse.

Recipe of the Week

            This is an easy-to-fix cake recipe that is delicious! It uses a boxed cake mix which helps as a time saver. Try this recipe for your next fall get together! You will get lots or compliments!

Pumpkin Praline Cake

1 box yellow cake mix

¼ cup water

1 (16 ounce) can pumpkin or 2 cups fresh cooked pumpkin, mashed

1 teaspoon nutmeg

1 ½ teaspoon cinnamon

½ teaspoon allspice

½ cup oil

¾ cup dark brown sugar

3 eggs


1 cup pecans, chopped

½ cup brown sugar

1 stick margarine, softened

            Combine first eight ingredients in order given. Add eggs, one at a time, beating a full minutes after each addition. Pour one-fourth of the batter into a large greased tube pan that has been sprayed with non-stick cooking spray or greased with flour and shortening.

            In a small bowl, combine nuts, butter and sugar; mix well. Spoon topping mixture on top of batter in pan. Carefully pour remaining batter over top of nut mixture. Bake 1 hour at 350 degrees or until toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool in pan for at least 10 minutes. Remove from pan and place on cooling rack to completely cool.

By Jean Ince
County Extension Agent - Staff Chair
The Cooperative Extension Service
U of A System Division of Agriculture

Media Contact: Jean Ince
County Extension Agent - Staff Chair
U of A Division of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service
421 N. Main St, Nashville AR 71852
(870) 845-7517


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