AUSTIN, Texas (October 10, 2003) Pumpkin isn't just for jack-o'-lanterns and pies; this lush, smooth fruit can be woven into a plethora of dishes both sweet and savory. Any way you roast, puree, sauté, or carve — it's pumpkin season. Whole Foods Market (NASDAQ: WFMI), the world's largest natural and organic foods supermarket, has developed some tips and recipes to help explore different ways to enjoy its unusual flavor of this autumn favorite.

With apologies to Charles Schultz, the great pumpkin, it seems, is actually an ancient fruit traced back to Central American roots. In fact, seeds from plant relatives found in Mexico date back more than 7,000 years. A true part of our shared heritage, dried strips of the versatile fruit were woven into mats by Native Americans. It was the colonists who brought us closest to the pumpkin pie gracing millions of tables this time of year; they sliced off the top of a pumpkin, seeded it, filled it with milk, honey and spices and baked it in hot ash. The tender flesh is a great foil to spicy flavors and a versatile, healthful addition to your fall and holiday menus.

The Humble Fruit

Cucurbito Pepo, the botanical species name for pumpkin, includes several families of pumpkin – from Standard Orange (small, intermediate, large), Processing, and Jumbo, to the haunting White Painting, striped Cushaw group, Naked-Seeded, and cute Miniature. Names of the different varieties tell their individual stories and can be exotic or sometimes downright funny – from Baby Pam, New England Pie (the standard pie pumpkin), Winter Luxury, Connecticut Field, and Atlantic Giant (most true giants are this variety), to tiny Jack-Be-Little and Sweetie Pie, and beautiful white pumpkins like Casper, Lumina, and Baby Boo.

As is the case with all bright orange foods, pumpkin is loaded with a valuable antioxidant, beta-carotene, a plant carotenoid that converts to vitamin A in the body. Research suggests that diets rich in beta-carotene may reduce the risk of developing certain types of cancer and may offer protection against heart disease.

Tips for Cooking with Pumpkin

To help you think out of the pumpkin-shaped box, Whole Foods Market has created some intriguing dishes and tips to try as the cool winds begin to blow these autumn evenings:

  • Toss pumpkin chunks into spicy stir-fries for a touch of soothing sweetness
  • Bake your favorite soup, stew or chili inside a pumpkin shell. The pumpkin will add natural sweetness to your dish and the presentation is fabulous as a serving vessel.
  • Bake your favorite soup, stew or chili inside a pumpkin shell. The pumpkin will add natural sweetness to your dish and the presentation is fabulous as a serving vessel.
  • Pumpkin blossoms are edible and great sautéed — much like squash blossoms
  • Cut pumpkin into wedges, oven roast until tender and golden brown. Serve on a favorite platter with a dollop of crème fraiche for a simple, beautiful dessert.
  • While canned pumpkin provides convenience and excellent results, making your own purée from fresh, ripe, plump pumpkins is a treat to be remembered. (Recipe follows)


Freshly Cooked Pumpkin

You can store freshly puréed pumpkin for up to a year by freezing one-cup portions in zip-closure bags or freezer containers. Simply thaw and blend into your favorite recipe.


Select small, meaty pumpkins, not large carving ones. One pound of pumpkin will make one cup of purée. Split pumpkin in half and remove seeds and pulp. Arrange rind side down on a lightly oiled roasting pan, cover tightly with foil, and bake for 75 minutes in a 325°F oven. Remove foil and bake an additional 30 to 45 minutes, until flesh no longer yields much moisture when pressed firmly with the back of a spoon. Remove from oven. When pumpkin is cool enough to handle, scrape flesh from rind and mash with a whisk. Puree in a food processor, food mill, ricer, or strainer. Store one-cup portions in freezer bags or containers for up to a year.

Pumpkin Poblano Corn Pudding

This appetizing side dish will add flair and flavor to your dinner. Each vegetable enhances the subtlety and richness of this Southwestern take on tradition corn pudding. The melted ricotta cheese and smooth pumpkin supply a velvety texture. This recipe, as found in The Whole Foods Market Cookbook: A Guide To Natural Foods With 350 Rrecipes (Clarkson Potter, 2002), creates a tremendous holiday dish with an intoxicating aroma.

Serves 10

  • 21/2 cups cornmeal
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 11/2 teaspoons salt
  • 3 large eggs, beaten
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1 (15 oz) can creamed corn
  • 11/4 cups freshly cooked or canned pumpkin
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup diced red onion
  • 3/4 cup seeded and diced poblano chilies
  • 1 TB minced fresh ginger
  • 1 clove garlic, minced (1/2 teaspoon)
  • canola oil for oiling pan


Preheat oven to 350°F. Combine the cornmeal, baking powder, and salt in a bowl. Make an indentation in the center of the mixture. Place the beaten eggs, the 1/4 cup canola oil, and the creamed corn into the indentation. Using a whisk, combine the ingredients. Stir the pumpkin and ricotta cheese. Blend well. Stir in the red onion, poblano chilies, ginger and garlic. Oil a 13 x 9-inch glass baking dish with the canola oil. Pour the batter into the dish. Smooth out the top. Bake for about 45 minutes, or until the mixture is set like warm, soft pudding.