Every fall we see pumpkins brightening up our yards and our front porches; a sure sign that Halloween and Thanksgiving are just around the corner. Pumpkins, a type of squash, are usually orange but come in all different shapes and sizes. While most people consider pumpkins vegetables, pumpkins are actually considered a fruit.
There are two types of squash: winter squash and summer squash. Summer squash are harvested and eaten when the skin is thin and tender. They tend to have a shorter storage span due to the thin skin and must be eaten promptly. Zucchini and yellow summer squash are just a couple of several varieties of squash you can enjoy during the summer months.
Pumpkins are included within the winter squash category along with butternut, spaghetti and acorn squash. Winter squash are known for their hard, thick skin, which is what makes carving pumpkins so challenging. The thick skin also contributes to a long shelf life, allowing these winter squash to be kept for months when stored in a dark and cool place such as a basement or in a garage.
Aside from being tasty, pumpkins are very good for you and fit into a healthy diet! They are low in calories and contain a generous amount of fiber, the nutrient that keeps us fuller for longer and may lower the risk of heart disease. Beta-carotene, found in the flesh of the pumpkin, not only gives most pumpkins their bright orange color but also acts as an antioxidant, protecting our cells from damage.
Pumpkins also contain copper and riboflavin. In addition to the pumpkin itself, pumpkin seeds can be baked and enjoyed as a tasty and crunchy snack. Pumpkin seeds are high in protein, iron and B vitamins.
Pumpkins are grown all across the globe, and here in Wisconsin you can easily pick one up from a local farm. They can be carved, baked into a pie or pureed into a soup—any way you prepare them, pumpkins are a great source of nutrients in your diet. Pick one up and get into the fall spirit!