Fall is the perfect time for using pumpkin.  There are recipes galore for baked goods and beverages using pureed pumpkin.  For those of you who like to use fresh fruits and vegetables when in season, you may be thinking – what about making my own pumpkin puree?  What is commonly referred to as a “cooking pumpkin” are smaller than the larger pumpkins used for carving.  Cooking pumpkins are typically found at farmer’s markets and in the produce section of your local grocery store.  Preparing pumpkin puree requires cutting up and roasting the pumpkin, processing in a food processor until smooth, and straining to remove the liquid.  While not difficult, it does involve several steps and about two hours of your time, counting cooking time.  So, a recipe for pumpkin pie, for example, that might take one hour to prepare and bake with canned pumpkin, might take three hours if you plan to make your own pumpkin puree from scratch.  In addition, homemade pumpkin puree can vary in consistency and flavor; and may not be the same as what you are accustomed to purchasing.  The Libby’s company, considered to make the number one pumpkin puree by American consumers, has this to say about their canned pumpkin: 

“Unlike the average field pumpkin or Jack O' Lantern, Libby's only uses the Dickinson. Libby's pumpkins were specially developed over time and are officially named the LIBBY'S Select Dickinson pumpkin.  The Dickinson pumpkins are smaller, squatter, meatier, heavier and sweeter than the Halloween pumpkin. It has a creamy texture and fresh pure pumpkin flavor.”

So, enjoy fresh pumpkins as fall decorations, and don’t feel guilty about using canned pumpkin for baking.  If you purchase a fresh pumpkin for carving, set aside the seeds and try roasting the seeds for a healthy snack. The seeds should be roasted soon after carving.  Roasted pumpkin seeds are delicious as a snack, and contain magnesium, potassium, and zinc.  The seeds from larger pumpkins are not as flavorful as the seeds from smaller cooking pumpkins but are still a tasty snack.  

The following recipe and instructions from Betty Crocker Kitchens received 5-Star reviews:

Homemade Roasted Pumpkin Seeds


  • 1 small (6 lb) fresh-well-ripened pumpkin
  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • ½ teaspoon salt


  1. Heat oven to 350°F. Cut pumpkin in half. Remove the membrane and seeds. Remove most of the pulp from the seeds (leave some pulp on - it adds to the flavor; for the same reason, do not rinse the seeds).
  2. Spread seeds in a shallow, jelly roll pan with sides, 15x10x 1 1/2 inches. Spray seeds with cooking spray; sprinkle with salt.
  3. Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until browned; cool.

Important Food Safety Notes:

  • Wash pumpkins thoroughly with warm soapy water before carving or cutting up for cooking.  Carving or cutting can transfer surface bacteria and pesticides to the inside flesh of the pumpkin.  
  • Fresh pumpkin can be stored in the refrigerator and eaten within three to four days.  
  • Pumpkin is a low acid food. The National Center for Home Food Preservation removed directions for canning mashed or pureed pumpkin in 1989 because of the inability to determine processing recommendations due to variation in viscosity or thickness of pumpkin purees.  Beware of internet recipes for canning pureed pumpkin which are not evidence-based and may not be safe. 
  • Pumpkin may be frozen. 
  • Directions for canning cubed pumpkin and for freezing pumpkin are provided in So Easy to Preserve by the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension.
  • If a face is drawn onto the pumpkin with markers, rather than carved out, the pumpkin is still safe for eating
  • Once a pumpkin has been carved and used for a Jack-O-Lantern, the pumpkin should not be eaten. 

References and Resources:

Betty Crocker (2020).  Homemade Roasted Pumpkin Seeds.  Retrieved from: https://www.bettycrocker.com/recipes/homemade-roasted-pumpkin-seeds/b8b22124-0e13-4482-9563-8d797d1e4c0d

Libby’s (n.d.).  Everything You Need to Know About Libby’s Canned Pumpkin.  Retrieved from: www.verybestbaking.com 

Michigan State University Extension (2017).  Pumpkin Preservation Safety Tips.  Retrieved from: https://www.canr.msu.edu/news/pumpkin_preservation_safety_tips#:~:text=To%20avoid%20foodborne%20illness%20while,bacteria%20to%20the%20inside%20flesh

Mississippi State University Extension (2019).  Growing Pumpkins for the Home Garden (Publication 2905).  Retrieved from http://extension.msstate.edu/sites/default/files/publications/publications/p2905_web.pdf

Haynes, Natasha (October 30, 2016).  The Food Factor: Can I Eat My Pumpkin.  Retrieved from: http://extension.msstate.edu/the-food-factor/video/2016/can-i-eat-my-pumpkin

National Center for Home Food Preservation (2015).  Home Preserving Pumpkins.  Retrieved from:  https://nchfp.uga.edu/tips/fall/pumpkins.html

University of Georgia Cooperative Extension (2014).  So Easy to Preserve (6th ed.).  

University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension (n.d.).  Can You Eat Your Jack-O-Lantern Pumpkin? Retrieved from:https://food.unl.edu/can-you-eat-your-jack-o-lantern-pumpkin

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