Silly Food Fact
A small car. A big horse. A stack of 2,000 books. What matches each of these in weight? The world-record giant pumpkin! Currently, the enormous winner is 1,818 pounds—a pumpkin grown last year in Quebec, Canada. Pumpkin weigh-off competitions occur every fall, and almost always a new, massive pumpkin trumps the old weight record. Now that’s a huge jack-o-lantern and a lot of pumpkin pies!
Why Our Bodies Love It
The bright orange pumpkin color discloses its beta-carotene, which can help reduce cancer risk and may provide anti-aging benefits. Some studies suggest that the chemical compounds in pumpkin can regenerate damaged pancreatic cells, possibly increasing insulin production and helping diabetics. Pumpkins—along with their crunchy seeds—also offer potassium and fiber. As far as pumpkin puree, canned pumpkin has the same nutritional value as fresh.
Care and Picking
First, choose your seed. Dozens of varieties exist, depending on the size, taste, and color you desire. Pumpkins love sunshine and water! Oh yes, remember than the vines will sprawl absolutely everywhere, but it’s okay to clip back runaway vines. Pumpkins are ready to harvest when the vines shrivel and the pumpkins turn orange. When cutting the pumpkin off the vine, leave several inches of the stem intact to help keep the pumpkin fresh.
Tips and Warnings
For a jack-o-lantern, pick a large pumpkin that doesn’t tip easily. Lighter-colored pumpkins usually are softer and easier to carve, but darker pumpkins tend to last longer. To further preserve, spray the carved pumpkin—inside and out—using a disinfectant cleaner with bleach. (Of course, don’t use the cleaner on any pumpkin you are going to cook.) The best cooking pumpkins are the smaller ones, which are more tender and have better flavor. Look for a pumpkin that’s heavy for its size with an intact stem and no soft spots.
Video: How to cook fresh pumpkin seeds