Pumpkin and Avocado: Abundant But Underappreciated Crops

This past week while visiting the little town of Kersey, PA as part of a volunteer ministry outreach, a trip to the local super Wal-Mart highlighted an annual conundrum – what to do with all those many pumpkins between one holiday and the next. 

Not that the end of November is likely to see a great many all-the-way-from-scratch pumpkin pies… Maybe.

At any rate, it’s the first weekend of November and Wal-Mart has pumpkins for a dollar. One whole dollar. I don’t think I saw any shopping carts that contained this super bargain steal.

ABOUT PUMPKINS

Pumpkins

In the Cucurbitacae family which contains cucumbers and melons, pumpkin is grown on every continent except Antarctica. Pennsylvania is the only Mid-Atlantic state among the top-5 pumpkin-producing states. That could be why so few people were interested in buying a pumpkin at Wal-Mart, even if it was just a dollar. 

The other four pumpkin states are California, Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio. 

From the Greek pepõn meaning large melon, pumpkin is a fruit traditionally cultivated in full sun along rivers and creeks. They are often seen growing alongside sunflowers and beans.

The Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) coined the term Three Sisters to describe this symbiotic farming method traditionally used throughout the Americas:

  • Squash shelters the roots of the corn, discourages weeds, and holds moisture in the soil.
  • Bean provides nitrogen that feeds the corn.
  • Corn provides a trellis for the beans.

Other sisters. Sunflower and Bee Balm (aka Bergamot, Horsemint, and Oswego Tea) provide a trellis for the beans, distract birds from the corn, and attract insect pollinators.

There are over 45 pumpkin varieties with a range of sizes from palm to get-a-forklift. Color variations range from white to green to shades of orange.

Denver Interior Design

By the Numbers

  • 85 – 125 days to maturation
  • 1.5B pounds produced annually in the U.S.
  • 45+ varieties
  • 90% water content
  • 500 seeds per fruit (approximately) 

Source: 10 Surprising Facts About Pumpkins. GoodHousekeeping.com.

Nutrition Profile

A cup of cooked pumpkin mash contains

  • 19 µg folate
  • 3596 µg Beta-carotene
  • 4659 µg Alpha-carotene
  • 14100 IU /706 RAE Vitamin A
  • 9875 µg Lutein & zeanthin (important for eye health)
  • 564 mg Potassium
  • 22 mg Magnesium
  • 37 mg Calcium
  • 2mg Sugar
  • 2 µg Vitamin K
  • 11 mg Vitamin C

Source: Pumpkin, Cooked. National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference 10. Agricultural Research Service. U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Every part of this fruit can be utilized in the kitchen and home:

Flesh:

  • Roast, bake, parch, boil, or dry and ground into flour
  • Dry in strips to weave into mats

Seeds:

  • Toast with or without seasonings for a snack
  • Traditionally used to cleanse the body of intestinal worms and parasites

Blossoms:

  • Batter and fry or stew

Shell:

  • dry to use as bowls and containers

COOK IT!

Perhaps the size of this autumn fruit has scared you off from taking it into your kitchen. But it’s really not that scary. Remember, for all its heft, it’s mostly water.

Working through the shell is perhaps the hardest part. The pulp is rather slimy, which can be a gross-out factor for some.

The most basic preparation is to cut into it and then separate the seeds from the pulp.  If you’re not a fan of snacking on pumpkin seeds, simply compost them with the pulp. 

To prepare the flesh, choose a method:

Boil: Cut into pieces and boil 10 to 25 minutes. Peel once cool. (I wouldn’t recommend this method as it leaches nutrients from the fruit, especially folate, thiamin, B6 and vitamin C. Unless you’re going to drink the water…)

Roast: Halve the fruit, remove seeds and pulp. Place face down in a baking dish and bake at 350° for about 1 ½ hours or until tender.

Steam: Cut the flesh into chunks and steam over water on medium heat. LiveStrong’s nice pictorial instructions start with peeling the pumpkin first. But for a less work intensive effort, peel the cubes once they’re cool enough to handle. 

Mash or puree the cooked, peeled fruit. And then the fun begins. What can you do with this large orange fruit? I mean, beyond the standard pies and breads? A trip around the internet yielded these recipes:

  • Pasta (Minimalist Baker)

I just added these variations on the standards to my Pinterest Recipe Adventures board:

Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars (Roxana’s Home Baking)

Maple Pecan Pumpkin Pie (The Wholesome Dish)

And TBF contributor Kimberly Rogers offers three great hacks for making pumpkin syrup for homemade pumpkin spice lattes, an alpha-hydroxy rich face mask, and roasted seeds for snacking.

Avocado – the other underappreciated American fruit

Avocado

Avocado was the other fruit languishing in Wal-Mart’s produce section. There sat a large pile of perfectly-ripened, mostly ignored fruit. I wondered if I could find recipes pairing these two American fruits. Oh, yeah – more pins for me! But first, a short introduction. Avocado is

  • a tree native to South Central Mexico, classified as a member of the flowering plant family Lauraceae which includes cinnamon, laurel, and bay leaf.

Nutrition Profile

  • 234 calories in 1 cup
  • Contains all 8 essential amino acids
  • High in potassium (708 mg in 1 cup)
  • Low in sodium (10 mg in 1 cup)
  • Boosts HDL, regulates triglyceride levels
     

    • High in monounsaturated fat (14 g in 1 cup)

     

    • Low in polyunsaturated fat (2.7 g in 1 cup)

     

    • Moderate in saturated fat (3.1 g in 1 cup)
  • Excellent source of carotenoids including beta-carotene, alpha-carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin
  • Rich in omega-3 (160 mg of alpha-linolenic acid in 1 cup) This means it’s good for your heart!

Source: Avocado Nutrition Facts. Natural News.

Avocado’s creamy consistency can substitute for the fat or cream of your favorite pumpkin custard. Blend an avocado with cocoa powder and your sweetener of choice for a simply delicious chocolate mousse. 

Avocado-Pumpkin Recipes

Go Ahead and Stock Up!

If you see an abundance of pumpkins and avocados dirt cheap at your local store, by all means, rescue a few. Use them fresh or preserve them for later use. Your body will thank you as you celebrate the harvest of these American staples. 

Thanks for reading, and please share this article if you found it helpful.

Also, plan to check out all of the products recommended here at Try Backyard Farming, sorted into categories.

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