Look for deep color and a smooth, dry rind on your pumpkin or squash.
Pick one that's heavy. Lighter weight may mean that it's dry inside.
To tell if the squash was picked prematurely, scrape the rind with your fingernail. It if nicks easily, choose another one.
Avoid pumpkins or squash with cracks, soft spots or bruises.
Get one with a stem. If the stem is missing, bacteria could have sneaked in, and nothing good can come from that!
Recipes with Pumpkin
If pumpkin and squash have never been part of your dining experience, you are in for a great epicurean surprise, especially if you experiment with a variety of herbs, spices and ingredients that can turn an ordinary cooked side dish into something extraordinary.
Whip up fancy Pumpkin Puffs -- perfectly flavored with pumpkin pie spice -- in less than half an hour. (Kids love these!) Or, when the weather turns colder, put on a kettle of Curried Pumpkin Soup. The addition of warming spices, such as ginger, cumin, coriander, cardamom, red pepper flakes and brown mustard seeds is not only appetizing, it's warming, too!
And squash? There are so many varieties available, you could probably try a new recipe every day this fall and winter and never have to repeat yourself. Many people just enjoy it plain, or baked with a little drizzle of butter, honey, brown sugar or maple syrup. Others fill the squash cavities with vegetables, meats or dressings for an easy yet savory meal. But there are so many other ways to enjoy it, it makes sense to take the initiative and explore. For a side dish, try Butternut Squash Couscous, a healthful recipe that takes only 10 minutes preparation time and features squash, couscous, raisins and pumpkin seeds, wonderfully seasoned with nutmeg, cinnamon, and chili powder. Or, if you're looking for a hearty main course, try Quinoa with Wild Mushrooms and Mixed Squashes, a tasty concoction of summer squash, quinoa, mushrooms, oregano, cumin, and garlic.
Experience, experiment...enjoy! Make the most of the seasonal change by adding some new dishes that are a perfect match for the fall season--like those that feature pumpkin and squash!
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» Meet the pumpkin
» Cooking or carving
» Save the seeds
» Types of squash
» How to pick 'em
» Recipes for every taste