IMGP1508It’s undeniably fall.  No, it’s not the shorter days, turning leaves or cooler nights that let me know. It’s pumpkin.  It seems that pumpkin flavored EVERYTHING have popped out of everywhere.  It was hardly past Labor Day when I started seeing promotions for pumpkin coffee, pumpkin donuts, cookies and cakes, pumpkin coffee creamer and even pumpkin yogurt.

I don’t have anything against pumpkin.  Actually I rather like this iconic fall flavor. But this is ridiculous. It doesn’t take an expert to figure out that most of these items don’t really have pumpkin in them.

I have a friend who owned a bulk food store. She had a pumpkin pudding and  pie filling mix that everyone loved.  At closer look we found that the mix did not contain any pumpkin at all…just the sweet spices of nutmeg, allspice, cloves and cinnamon that are frequently used with pumpkin…it gave the “hint” of pumpkin pie to the pudding.  If you really wanted to make a pie  they suggested adding mashed pumpkin to the pudding .  Isn’t it amazing what our taste buds and the sense of smell can make you believe?

But, not all of the pumpkin foods are “smoke and mirrors”…or should I say “spice and herbs”? I did find some yogurt with real pumpkin added as the second ingredient and pancakes that had pumpkin in them, too. Good for them!   IMGP1637

In addition to the flavor, adding real pumpkin to foods could be a super nutrition boost. Pumpkin has Vitamin A and lots of it.  The Produce for Better Health Foundation says that just 3/4 cup of cooked pumpkin contains 130% of your daily value for Vitamin A and only 25 calories.  

You can add this classic fall flavor to your own beverages, baked goods and menu with “real” mashed pumpkin.  If you want to be “authentic” select a from your farm market or grocery.  Be sure it’s a pie pumpkin, not one grown for Jack-O-Lanterns, they are usually smaller,  meatier and less stringy.  IMGP1632

Pumpkin can be simply prepared by placing slices on a cookie sheet and roasting  in a 350 degree oven for about 30 minutes until tender and slightly caramelized (varies with thickness of slices). Remember to wash the outside rind before cutting and to save the seeds for roasting. 

You can sprinkle the pumpkin with spices before baking or just let the pumpkin flavor come out.  The cooked pumpkin could be eaten as a vegetable or mashed to be added in other recipes.IMGP1669

Just want some quick mashed pumpkin?  They can also be prepared in the microwave (see the recipe for spaghetti squash.

Canned mashed pumpkin is easy and works well in recipes, too, when real pumpkins are not available.  If you’re wanting to preserve pumpkin, the National Center for Home Food Preservation cautions against canning mashed pumpkin .  They recommend canning cubed pumpkin or freezing the mashed pumpkin.

Create your own fall pumpkin specialties. Here are a few recipes ideas from the Food and Health Communications files to get you started.

 April Fool Chili

Pumpkin Pie Oatmeal

Pumpkin Apple Butter

Easy Pumpkin Pudding

Cheryle Jones Syracuse, MS

Professor Emeritus, The Ohio State University