Pumpkin—for a limited time only? No way!

There have been lots of ads in the paper and signs in the coffee shop for pumpkin-flavored drinks and snacks. These days you can buy cereal, yogurt, bagels, and popcorn that are enhanced with spicy pumpkin flavor. You can even munch on pumpkin spice flavored chips! (Not sure about that one…and pumpkin-flavored vodka? Yuck!) And all of them urge you to buy them NOW! because they’re only available for a limited time.

Don’t be fooled, folks. Pumpkins — fresh and canned — can be purchased year-round. And the taste of the real deal beats the powders and syrups you’ll find in your beloved pumpkin spice latte, hands down!

Pick up a fresh pumpkin at the farmers’ market this weekend, and then serve it as a side dish for Sunday dinner. Here’s how:

  1. Choose a pumpkin that’s small, flat, and red-orange.
  2. When you get home, place the washed pumpkin on a sturdy cutting board, and cut it in half with a large, sharp knife.
  3. Scoop out the seeds and set them aside to toast later.
  4. Cut your pumpkin into chunks and put the pieces on a well-greased baking sheet. Bake at 325°F for an hour. Scrape the pulp from the shell, then toss ‘em into your food processor to puree.

Now you’re ready to enjoy your pumpkin in these smashing ways:

Make mashed pumpkin. Warm pureed pumpkin with a little margarine, ground cinnamon, and skim milk. Serve like mashed sweet potatoes.

Serve saucy pumpkin. Add a little salt and pepper to pureed pumpkin, then use as “gravy” with lean pot roast.

Choose chunky pumpkin. Reheat pumpkin chunks in the microwave. Sprinkle with pumpkin pie spice and chopped toasted pecans. Serve as a side dish with pork tenderloin.

Slurp soupy pumpkin. Stir pumpkin chunks into canned soup for a flavor and nutrient boost.

Savor smooth pumpkin. Take the shortcut. Get your pumpkin from a can. Season with ground ginger, stir in some raisins or dried cherries, and microwave until warm. It’s great with baked chicken.