Food for Thought: Hurrah for the pumpkin pie!

By Nancy Schuster
Frontier Extension District Agent

Pumpkins and squash of many colors, shapes and sizes are available at local farmers markets. Home cooks and chefs rely on canned pumpkin puree because it is a convenience, has consistent flavor, and texture. Canned pumpkin is our seasonal pumpkin fix, for everything from pies and muffins to savory pots of pumpkin soup and chili.

foodforthoughtBut, you might be surprised to know that this pantry staple might be hiding another ingredient inside – squash! That’s right – some canned pumpkin puree is actually made from one or more types of winter squash, like Butternut, Hubbard, Boston Marrow, and Golden Delicious. These squash varieties can be less stringy and richer in sweetness and color than pumpkin.

The label on canned pumpkin reads 100 percent pumpkin. However; the USDA is actually pretty lenient with its distinction between pumpkin and squash. Here’s their take on the contents of canned puree: “The canned product prepared from clean, sound, properly matured, golden fleshed, firm shelled, sweet varieties of either pumpkins and squashes by washing, stemming, cutting, steaming and reducing to a pulp.”

The term pumpkin can apply to two of the three varieties of winter squash – C pepo and C maxima.  Within these two varieties you’ll find Connecticut field pumpkins, Dickinson pumpkins, Kentucky field pumpkins, as well as Boston Marrow squash, and Golden Delicious squash.

As you visit local farmers markets this fall for pumpkins, don’t be afraid to ask questions about the varieties of squash local growers raise and how to prepare them. Some squash, like Turban, may even look like decoration. The Turban has a large orange base with small top of cream, green and orange colors. Firm textured, the inner golden flesh of a Turban squash has a slightly hazelnut flavor after being baked or steamed.

When preparing Turban squash in an oven, cut the squash lengthwise from the stem to the bottom. Place the squash skin side up in a dish with 1/2 inch of water. Cover the dish and bake for 1 to 1 1/4 hours at 375 degrees. In a microwave, cook for approximately 20 minutes in a dish with a loose cover of plastic wrap. This squash is available year round, but best during August to October.

The Kabocha squash is a member of the pumpkin family.   Inside the hard, deep green or reddish-orange, spotted outer skin there is a semi-firm, dense golden flesh that has a rich, sweet flavor.  With a flavor that tastes similar to pumpkin meat or a sweet potato, it is a good substitute for recipes requiring pumpkin or sweet potatoes as ingredients.  When cooked, its texture resembles that of a tender potato. It can be baked, braised, pureed, stuffed, or steamed to be served as a side dish or as a base for soups, cakes, and pies.

Ambercup squash looks like a small pumpkin. Delicata, a long oblong-shaped squash with a cream colored, green striped thick outer skin, and Carnival, shaped like a slightly flattened pumpkin with hard, thick, colorful rind that is mottled with green, yellow, orange and cream are golden orange flesh squash that can be cooked similar to the Turban squash – baked or steamed.

Be brave this fall and try one of these squashes – Hubbard, Sugarpump, Sweet Dumpling, Acorn, Butternut, Gold Nuggets; you will find them delicious and easy to prepare. Substitute squash for pumpkin this Thanksgiving!


Light Pumpkin Pie – makes 8 servings

  • 1 cup ginger snap cookies
  • 1 15-ounce can pumpkin or squash (1 ¾ cups)
  • ½ cup egg whites (about 4)
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 can (12 ounces) evaporated fat-free milk

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray 9-inch pie dish with nonstick cooking spray.
Grind ginger snaps in a food processor and pat cookie crumbs into the dish evenly. Mix remaining ingredients into a large mixing bowl. Pour into crust and bake until knife inserted in center comes out clean, about 45 minutes. Cool on wire rack for 2 hours. Serve immediately or cover and refrigerate.

Nutrition Fact per 1/8 pie: 220 calories, 4.5 gm fat, 0mg cholesterol, 160 mg sodium, 39 gm carbohydrates, 3 gm fiber, 28 grams sugar, 7 gm protein.


schustersmNancy Schuster is a Frontier Extension District family and consumer science agent whose responsibilities include providing information about food safety, nutrition, food science and food preparation. She is based in the Garnett office of the Frontier Extension District and can be reached at 785-448-6826 or email [email protected].


One Response to Food for Thought: Hurrah for the pumpkin pie!

  1. Unome says:

    Good article about squash and pumpkin….timely too.

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