Why Fall is Pumpkin Season (And why we’re OK with it)
Fall = Pumpkin Season, and that’s a good thing.
Fall: changing leaves, crisp air, and fall decorations everywhere. What else can’t you miss right now? Pumpkins. Whole pumpkins, carved pumpkins. Pumpkin pies, cookies, bread, drinks, and candies. Even pumpkin-scented candles; pumpkin has arrived.
Why are pumpkins so popular this time of year? Fall is harvest season for pumpkins and other hard-shelled winter squash like butternut, acorn, and spaghetti squashes. These squashes are in the same family as zucchini, cucumbers, and melons. Pumpkins are technically fruits because they have seeds, but they are closer to a vegetable nutritionally.
A pumpkin’s anatomy + uses
From the outside, pumpkins can be different colors but are most known for their orange skin. They are round, smooth, and have ribs running from the stem to the bottom. The inside is lined with a thick rim of orange-colored flesh, which is the most common part of the pumpkin eaten in the United States. The flesh of carving pumpkins is not very flavorful, but the flesh of smaller pumpkins found in the produce section of the grocery store has a sweet, earthy flavor. The hollow center of the pumpkin is filled with web-like fibrous strands and seeds, both of which are removed before cooking. The seeds, as well as the flowers and leaves, are also edible. We like to eliminate waste by saving the seeds from our carving pumpkins and roasting them in the oven with spices for a crunchy, savory snack. Save this roasted pumpkin seed recipe card for later!
Full of nutrients, pumpkin helps keep your family healthy. It contains a high amount of beta-carotene, a red-orange plant pigment. Inside your body, beta-carotene protects your cells from damage. It also turns into vitamin A, a nutrient that is excellent for eye, skin, and reproductive health. Pumpkin is also a good source of other nutrients – like fiber, vitamin K, vitamin C, and potassium – that helps your body fight infections and supports good heart health.
Unfortunately, not all foods with “pumpkin” in their names have the nutrients that support a healthy lifestyle. Enter pumpkin spice-flavored foods. Pumpkin pie spice, a flavoring used to flavor baked goods and hot drinks, is a combination of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves, and allspice. This spice blend tastes delicious and screams “holiday season,”. With that said, pumpkin pie spice flavored foods do not necessarily contain more nutrients than their non-pumpkin spice counterparts. Oftentimes these foods are full of added sugar; sometimes they don’t even have pumpkin in them but are only flavored with pumpkin pie spice blend. To get the nutritional benefits from pumpkin, make sure the foods you’re eating have pumpkin in them and are not just flavored with pumpkin pie spice.
We love pumpkin at Second Harvest. Canned pumpkin is one of the many shelf-stable fall vegetables we distribute to food pantries across East Tennessee. Canned fruits and vegetables, including pumpkin, can be just as nutritious as fresh or frozen produce. These canned items may be more convenient for a busy lifestyle.
Have we convinced you to try some meals with pumpkin? Try these recipes (you can print the pages linked) using canned pumpkin to get you started:
Written by Courtney, Nutrition Access Manager; resources used: