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Friday, October 18, 2013
As much as I love alternative rock music from the '90's....this isn't about the top-charting Chicago-based band, the Smashing Pumpkins; nor does it discuss smashing pumpkins in the literal sense.
Smashing is a word I use to describe pumpkins because of how wonderful they are! I'm proud to say that I live in a state that produces 90-95% of the processed pumpkins in the United States. This may seem surprising but 80% of all the pumpkins produced commercially in the U.S. are produced within a 90-mile radius of Peoria, IL. This was a short drive from my family home growing up so we would often find ourselves venturing to the "Pumpkin Capital of the World" Morton, IL. for their annual pumpkin festival. Now in its 47th year, this festival is always a smash. Among all of the events and activities, my favorite part is all of the delicious pumpkin-inspired food, such as pumpkin chili, pumpkin doughnuts, pumpkin ice cream and of course, pumpkin pie.
With fall underway, rally the troops and head to a pumpkin patch near you to experience what the smashing pumpkin has to offer:)
Pumpkin Farms in Illinois –follow this link to find a pumpkin patch near you.
Its bright orange appearance is a clue to one important antioxidant that it contains. Beta-carotene!
Current research indicates that a diet rich in foods containing beta-carotene may reduce the risk of developing certain types of cancer and offers protection against heart disease. Beta-carotene offers protection against other diseases as well as some degenerative aspects of aging.
Here is the nutritional breakdown.
(1 cup cooked, boiled, drained, without salt)
Zinc 1 mg
References to pumpkins date back many centuries. The name pumpkin originated from the Greek word for "large melon" which is "pepon." "Pepon" was nasalized by the French into "pompon." The English changed "pompon" to "Pumpion." American colonists changed "pumpion" into "pumpkin."
Native Americans dried strips of pumpkin and wove them into mats. They also roasted long strips of pumpkin on the open fire and ate them. The origin of pumpkin pie occurred when the colonists sliced off the pumpkin top, removed the seeds, and filled the insides with milk, spices and honey. The pumpkin was then baked in hot ashes.
- The largest pumpkin pie ever made was over five feet in diameter and weighed over 350 pounds. It used 80 pounds of cooked pumpkin, 36 pounds of sugar, 12 dozen eggs and took six hours to bake.
- Pumpkins are members of the vine crops family called cucurbits.
- Pumpkins originated in Central America.
- In early colonial times, pumpkins were used as an ingredient for the crust of pies, not the filling.
- Pumpkins were once recommended for removing freckles and curing snake bites.
- Pumpkins range in size from less than a pound to over 1,000 pounds.
- The largest pumpkin ever grown weighed 1,140 pounds.
- It takes 110 days for a pumpkin vine to produce mature pumpkins.
- As of 2011, Illinois has 502 farms that grow pumpkins on 15,900 acres.
With all of these pumpkins practically growing in our backyard, it only seems natural to celebrate them each fall and incorporate this sweet, jovial fruit into our favorite fall recipes.
**Instead of using canned pureed pumpkin for your pies, cakes, breads, soups, bars, and breads...make your own pureed pumpkin with this easy recipe and I know you will be pleased with the results!
STEP 1: Cook the Pumpkin
Cut the pumpkin into rather large chunks. Rinse in cold water. Place pieces in a large pot with about a cup of water. The water does not need to cover the pumpkin pieces. Cover the pot and boil for 20 to 30 minutes or until tender, or steam for 10 to 12 minutes. Check for doneness by poking with a fork. Drain the cooked pumpkin in a colander. Reserve the liquid to use as a base for soup.
Cut pumpkin in half, scraping away stringy mass and seeds. Rinse under cold water. Place pumpkin, cut side down on a large cookie sheet. Bake at 350°F for one hour or until fork tender..
Cut pumpkin in half, place cut side down on a microwave safe plate or tray. Microwave on high for 15 minutes, check for doneness. If necessary continue cooking at 1-2 minute intervals until fork tender.
STEP 2: Preparing the Puree
When the pumpkin is cool enough to handle, remove the peel using a small sharp knife and your fingers. Put the peeled pumpkin in a food processor and puree or use a food mill, ricer, strainer or potato masher to form a puree.
Pumpkin puree freezes well. To freeze, measure cooled puree into one cup portions, place in ridged freezer containers, leaving 1/2-inch head-space or pack into zip closure bags. Label, date and freeze at 0°F for up to one year.
Use this puree in recipes or substitute in the same amount in any recipe calling for solid pack canned pumpkin.
Pumpkins and More --follow this link for more pumpkin fun, info and recipes.
University of Illinois Extension Gardener's Corner
University of Illinois Hort Answers-Pumpkins