Pumpkin and Avocado: Abundant But Underappreciated Crops


This past week while visiting the little town of Kersey, PA as part of a volunteer ministry outreach, a trip to the local super Wal-Mart highlighted a forceful reminder of an annual conundrum – what to do with all those many pumpkins between one holiday and the next.  Not that the end of November is likely to see a great many all-the-way-from-scratch pumpkin pies… Maybe.

At any rate, it’s the first weekend of November and Wal-Mart has pumpkins for a dollar. One whole dollar. I don’t think I saw any shopping carts that contained this super bargain steal.

ABOUT PUMPKINS

Pumpkins

In the Cucurbitacae family which contains cucumbers and melons, pumpkin is grown on every continent except Antarctica. Pennsylvania is the only Mid-Atlantic state among the top-5 producing states; the other states are California, Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio. (Perhaps that explains in part why no one wanted to buy a pumpkin at Wal-Mart?)

From the Greek pepõn meaning large melon, pumpkin is a fruit traditionally cultivated in full sun along rivers and creeks beside sunflowers and beans. The Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) coined the term Three Sisters to describe this symbiotic farming method traditionally used throughout the Americas:

  1. Squash shelters the roots of the corn, discourages weeds, and holds moisture in the soil
  2. Bean provides nitrogen that feeds the corn
  3. Corn provides a trellis for the beans

Other sisters Sunflower and Bee Balm (aka Bergamot, Horsemint and Oswego Tea) provide a trellis for the beans, distract birds from the corn, and attract insect pollinators

There are over 45 varieties with a range of sizes from palm to get-a-forklift. Color variations range from white to green to shades of orange.

BY THE NUMBERS

  • 85-125 days to maturation
  • 1.5B pounds produced annually in the U.S.
  • 45+ varieties
  • 90 – percentage of water
  • 500 approximate number of seeds per fruit

NUTRITION PROFILE

A cup of cooked pumpkin mash contains

  • 19 µg folate
  • 3596 µg Beta-carotene
  • 4659 µg Alpha-carotene
  • 14100 IU /706 RAE Vitamin A
  • 9875 µg Lutein & zeanthin (important for eye health)
  • 564 mg Potassium
  • 22 mg Magnesium
  • 37 mg Calcium
  • 2mg Sugar
  • 2 µg Vitamin K
  • 11 mg Vitamin C

Every part of this fruit can be utilized in the kitchen and home:

Flesh:

  • Roast, bake, parch, boil or dry and ground into flour
  • Dry in strips and weave into mats

Seeds:

  • Toast with or without seasonings for a snack
  • Traditionally used to cleanse the body of intestinal worms and parasites

Blossoms:

  • Batter and fry or stew

Shell:

  • dry to use as bowls/containers

 

COOK IT!

Perhaps the size of this autumn fruit has scared you off from taking it into your kitchen. But it’s really not that scary. Remember, for all its heft, it’s primarily water. Working through the shell is perhaps the hardest part. The pulp is rather slimy, which can be a gross-out factor for some.

The most basic preparation is to cut into it and separate out the seeds from the pulp or (gasp) compost the seeds with the pulp.

To prepare the flesh, choose a method:

Boil: Cut into pieces and boil 10 to 25 minutes. Peel once cool. (I wouldn’t recommend this method as it leaches nutrients from the fruit, especially folate, thiamin, B6 and vitamin C. Unless you’re going to drink the water…)

Roast: Halve the fruit, remove seeds and pulp. Place face down in baking dish and baked at 350° for about 1 ½ hours or until tender.

Steam: Cut into chunks and steam over an inch of water for 30 minutes. Peel once cooled.

 

Mash or puree the cooked, peeled fruit. And then the fun begins. What can you do with this large orange fruit? I mean, beyond the standard pies and breads? A trip around the internet yielded these recipes:

I just added these variations on the standards to my Pinterest Recipe Adventures board:

Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars (Roxana’s Home Baking)

Maple Pecan Pumpkin Pie (The Wholesome Dish)

Editor note: TBF Contributor Kimberly Rogers also has a great article on how to roast pumpkin seeds, create a face mask from the pulp, and make a delicious pumpkin spice latte.

 

Avocado – the other underappreciated American fruit

Avocado

Avocado was the other fruit languishing in Wal-Mart’s produce section. There sat a large pile of perfectly-ripened fruit, largely ignored. I wondered if I could find recipes pairing these two American fruits. Oh, yeah – more pins for me! But first, a short introduction:

  • a tree native to South Central Mexico, classified as a member of the flowering plant family Lauraceae
  • powerful anti-inflammatory food

NUTRITION PROFILE

  • 234 calories in 1 cup
  • Contains all 18 essential amino acids
  • High in potassium (708 mg in 1 cup)
  • Low in sodium (10 mg in 1 cup)
  • Boosts HDL, regulates triglyceride levels
    • High in monounsaturated fat (14 g in 1 cup)
    • Low in polyunsaturated fat (2.7 g in 1 cup)
    • Moderate in saturated fat (3.1 g in 1 cup)
  • Excellent source of carotenoids including beta-carotene, alpha-carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin
  • Rich in omega-3 (160 mg of alpha-linolenic acid in 1 cup) This means it’s good for your heart!

Avocado’s creamy consistency can substitute for the fat or cream of your favorite pumpkin custard. With or without pumpkin, blend an avocado with cocoa powder and sweetener of choice for a simply delicious chocolate mousse. But, on to the avocado-pumpkin recipes:

New to many counties this year is curbside pickup or other collection of pumpkins for composting. But why compost a perfectly good fruit when you can eat it? Wasteful. If you see an abundance of pumpkins and avocados dirt cheap at your local store, by all means rescue a few. Your body will thank you as you celebrate the harvest of these American staples.

SOURCES
Last accessed November 12, 2016

All About Pumpkins. Jack Creek Farms.

10 Surprising Facts About Pumpkins. GoodHousekeeping.com

The Three Sisters and That Fourth Sister No One Really Talks About. Rodale Institute.

Pumpkin. Wikipedia.

Pumpkin, Cooked. National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference 10. Agricultural Research Service. U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Avocado Nutrition Facts. Natural News.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Roxanne Corbin has lived most of her life in the mid-Atlantic. She is a latent artist and wistful-thinking gardener. An information hunter by trade, Roxanne is currently working to transition from the corporate world to managing a research and writing business of her own.


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