Cooking Pumpkin for Maximum Nutrition
There is a better way to cook your pumpkins than boiling that will retain the most nutritional value when you eat them.
It’s also fairly quick and simple and makes for a much better tasting pumpkin, whatever recipe you’re using it for.
Choosing a Pumpkin
Smaller pumpkins tend to be far superior for eating than the larger jack-o’-lantern styles that rarely taste good.
Pumpkin breeds such as Sugar Pie, Baby Pam, Jarrahdale Blue, New England Pie and the Cheese and Cinderella varieties are often recommended for their texture and flavors.
Look for ones that feel relatively heavy for their size and have a consistent color. Avoid pumpkins with mold, bruises, cracks or heavy scarring and test that the stem is hard and the skin firm to the touch.
It’s much better to buy them whole and open them yourself, rather than get pre-cut portions which can lose nutrition with their pulp exposed.
Most pumpkins and winter squash can be stored for at least a month, some for several months, in a cool dry spot away from sunlight. Personally, I find in a cupboard away from other food to be best for pumpkin storage.
When you only need half of a pumpkin for a recipe, they can be cut in half with a sturdy knife and the remainder kept in the fridge for a couple of days, wrapped in cling film or in a sealed container.
How to Cook Pumpkins to Retain the Vitamins and Minerals
Many people boil pumpkin to cook it. Unfortunately this tends to leech many of the vitamins, minerals and other nutrients into the boiling water and down the sink rather than into your body.
A much healthier method of cooking pumpkins is to steam them in a certain way that makes them quick and easy to prepare while preserving as many vitamins as possible.
- First you’ll need a food steamer. A universal steamer is a great way to steam all different kinds of veggies and will fit over the top of most regular sized saucepans. For a budget option, a collapsible steamer insert also works.
- Prepare your pumpkin by placing it on a chopping board and cutting from the top, just to the side of the stalk and away from you with a strong knife. Continue through to the base so one side is cut. Repeat on the other side of the stalk until you can pull it apart with just a little effort.
- Trying to cut through the stalk can be difficult so it’s best avoided. If you are still having trouble opening your pumpkin after cutting it on either side, try cutting into the stalk from side on and inside.
- With your pumpkin now split in half and minus the seeds, cut it lengthwise into strips, roughly 2 inches wide. These will steam much quicker in your steamer and are a handy size for skin removal ahead.
- Once the pumpkin is cut up and in the steamer, put some water in the saucepan and steam them with the lid on and medium heat for around 12 to 15 minutes. You’ll know they’re ready when a fork goes easily through the skin to the pulp.
- If you want the skin off then carefully transfer the steamed pumpkin strips to your chopping board and let them cool for a minute.
- The way I remove the skin is to hold one end of the strip with a fork or a folded over paper towel (take care as they’ll be very hot straight out of the steamer) and simply scoop out the bright orange pulp with a tablespoon following the inside of the skin.
It can take a little practice, but after a few goes you should have healthy pumpkin steamed, in skinless strips and ready to eat or use in recipes in around 15 minutes.