In season: Pumpkin
Oct 27, 2012 (Menafn - The Wisconsin State Journal - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --What it is: The usually large, squash-like fruit is also sometimes considered a vegetable. It is easy to grow and found throughout much of the United States. Cultivation of the pumpkin dates back 9,000 years to its native regions of South and Central America. Roger Hermanson of Hermanson Pumpkin Patch in Edgerton said he has 40 different varieties on his farm. "I have every color pumpkin and every size pumpkin there is, practically."
How it's used: Besides being turned into jack-o'-lanterns at Halloween, pumpkins have many uses in the kitchen. The smaller pumpkins are tastier and can be turned into pumpkin butter, pies, custard, bread, muffins, cookies, soup, lattes -- you name it. The seeds are popularly baked and eaten.
How it's cooked: You break the stem off, cut the pumpkin in half, clean out the seeds, and put them in a pan with a little bit of water. Bake it in the oven at 350 degrees until it gets really soft, then scoop it out, the same way you do a squash. "It's better tasting than what's from the can, that's for sure," Hermanson said. "But a lot of people don't want to fuss with breaking open a pumpkin."
Season: Fall. Some farmers have had a hard time growing pumpkins this season because of the drought. But it's been a great year for Hermanson. "My pumpkin crop is better than I ever thought it would be in July when it was dry weather. They just sat there. But when they started to blossom, we got a couple of timely rains and it turned into a beautiful crop. I think they are bigger than ever. They are gorgeous."
Nutrition: Good source of beta carotene, which is a powerful antioxidant and is converted to vitamin A in the body.
Where to find: Farm stands, pumpkin patches, farmers' markets, co-ops and most any grocery store.
Sources: Roger Hermanson of Hermanson Pumpkin Patch in Edgerton; "From Asparagus to Zucchini," from the Madison Area Community Supported Agriculture Coalition; University of Illinois Extension.
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