Common Ontario varieties include Howden, Funny Face, Connecticut Field, Prize-winner, Jackpot Hybrid, Trick or Treat and Bushkin; other varieties such as Small Sugar, Spooky and Early Cheyenne Pie are best used for cooking (e.g. pies) but can also be used for decorating.
Pumpkin is an excellent source of Vitamin A, thiamine and riboflavin and a good source of Vitamin C. One 4 oz. (115 g) portion, cooked and mashed, contains 38 calories. The seeds are rich in protein and a good source of iron.
Pumpkins and squashes are native to the New World. They have often been confused with gourds, which can be traced to the Old World (India). Early references to pumpkins go back only several hundred years when they were called "pompions" (from the Greek pepon, "cooked by the sun"). "Pumpkin" first appeared in the 17th century when the Cinderella fairy tale was written.
Today, pumpkins can be found well beyond North America. English, French, German and Argentinean cooks all use pumpkin to make various breads, pies, soups and casseroles.
Buying and storing
For Halloween pumpkins, look for a sturdy stem, well-rounded shape and one that will stand properly, but is not too heavy (thin walls are easier to carry).
For cooking, small pie pumpkins are best. Look for a firm, smooth orange skin with a heavy feel for its size. Avoid cracks and bruises, which can bring on premature deterioration. Small to medium sizes are best for kitchen use because of their finer texture and flavour.
You can keep an unblemished whole pumpkin in a cool, dry place for several months. But once fresh pumpkin is cut up, it should be wrapped in plastic, refrigerated and used within five days. Or it can also be cooked and frozen for up to six months.
Frozen pumpkin can be used in the same way as canned or freshly cooked -- in pies, muffins, cakes, breads and even casseroles, where it does double duty as a flavouring agent and thickener.
One cup of fresh pumpkin yields about one cup of cooked mashed vegetable.
To Bake: Cut into chunks, remove seeds and fibre from central cavity. Place in baking dish with a little water, cover and bake at 325°F (160°C) until tender -- about 50 minutes. Scoop pulp from rind, mash or purée. Use in baking or season to taste and serve as side dish.
To Boil/Steam: Cut into pieces, remove seeds and fibre. Cut into large cubes. Boil in lightly salted water or steam for 20 to 30 minutes or until tender. Remove, allow to cool slightly and scoop pulp from rind.
To Microwave: Cut in half, remove seeds and fibre from centre and peel. Cut flesh into 1 1/2 inch (4 cm) chunks. Place in 8-cup (2 L) casserole, cover and microwave at high, stirring several times, for 15 to 18 minutes or until tender.
To Purée: Mash cooked pulp in food processor or blender until smooth; or use a food mill, strainer or potato masher. Drain pulp in strainer for 15 minutes; discard liquid or reserve for use in soups and stews. Pack purée in airtight containers. Refrigerate for up to three days or freeze for up to six months.
To Roast Pumpkin Seeds: An average sized pumpkin contains about one cup of seeds. For best tasting seeds, try Bushkin or Trick or Treat varieties. Wash, removing any bits of clinging fibre. Spread seeds on clean baking sheet; let dry at room temperature overnight. Toss with 1 1/2 tsp (7 mL) vegetable oil. Bake at 250°F (120°C), stirring occasionally, for 1 1/2 hours or until golden brown and crunchy.