It’s that time of year. Fall is fast approaching (it arrives this Wednesday in fact) and the harvest is in full force. In fact some of the early crops, like summer squash and green beans might be finished producing, but the late crops like pumpkin and winter squash are just getting ready to be picked. While pumpkins are popularly grown for their use as fall decorations, and people often buy them to make jack-o-lanterns for Halloween, I’m afraid many are missing the true value of pumpkins.
On our morning local news channel last week, there was a segment where a heart doctor was interviewed and he spoke about the health benefits of pumpkin. He touted the large amounts of vitamin A and fiber as the main reasons to eat this heart healthy food but check out this link for more detailed reasons. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/09/04/pumpkin-health-benefits_n_1936919.html
This link also describes benefits of using pumpkin as a treatment for the skin. http://www.livestrong.com/article/193307-benefits-of-pumpkin-skin-care-products/
Although my pumpkin spice soap does contain real, home grown, pumpkin I would not consider adding pumpkin to other products that I make, because in doing so I would also have to add some type of preservative, as the water of content of pumpkin allows for bacteria growth. Therefore in order to use pumpkin as a skin care product I would advise you to make your own.
If you have never cooked a pumpkin before it is very simple. Usually the small pumpkins are use for cooking, but larger ones are just as edible. While there are other ways to cook pumpkin, this is the way I do it. Cut the pumpkin in half, scoop out all the seeds and gunk? goo? slimy stuff? You probably know what I’m talking about. Put the pumpkin halves in a baking dish with a small amount of water in the pan and cover it with foil. Bake at 350 degrees until it is soft probably 60-90 minutes. Allow it to cool, then scoop the pumpkin out of the shell. Your pumpkin is now ready to eat, but at this point I like to put it in a food processor to puree it before using it in other recipes. Here are a few recipes you might try.
Easy Pumpkin Pie
2 cups pumpkin pure
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ginger
1 unbaked deep-dish pie shell (I usually buy these but you certainly can make your own)
Mix first 7 ingredients until thoroughly mixed. Pour into pie shell. Bake at 425 for 15 minutes then reduce heat to 350 and bake for another 35-40 minutes.
2 cups flour
2 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup canola oil
1 3/4 cups pumpkin puree
Preheat over to 350. Grease 9×13 pan. Mix together flour, baking powder. baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. Mix together sugar and oil until well blended then add eggs and mix well. Mix in pumpkin. Add flour mixture and mix until thoroughly blended. Pour into prepared pan. Bake 30-35 minutes, until the top springs back when lightly touched. I love this cake and it pares well with a cream cheese or vanilla frosting.
If you have baked more pumpkin than you need for a specific recipe this puree freezes well. I usually measure it out, (2 cups for pie) then put it in plastic freezer containers.
Now I hope you didn’t throw away those seeds that you scraped out of the pumpkin, because roasted pumpkin seeds are also a great snack. While I have only made the regular salted variety this link has several different ways to try them. http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/food-network-kitchens/pumpkin-seeds-recipe.html
Lastly if you would like to try pumpkin on your skin you could make a pumpkin facial mask by blending together 1/4 to 1/2 cup pumpkin puree, 1 egg, 1 tsp. honey and 1/2 tsp. cinnamon. Apply to face and allow to sit and dry for 15 minutes before rinsing off with warm water. If you have any left over dispose of it. This product should be used immediately after it is prepared and it will not keep.
While you could certainly use canned pumpkin for any of these recipes (except seeds) I believe that there is great value in buying a whole pumpkin, not only for the freshness of the food, but there is price value as well. I just checked the price of Libby’s canned pumpkin at Walmart, and it was selling for $1.88 for a15 oz. can (which leaves you a little short of the two cups called for in my pumpkin pie recipe). Now the two pie pumpkins that I baked Saturday yielded enough to make two pies (4 cups) plus I put two (2 cup) containers in the freezer, so each yielded approximately 4 cups, or more than double what one can contains, plus the seeds. We are currently selling our pie pumpkins for $1 each at our farm wagon so if you are in the area stop buy and pick up a couple.