Have a pumpkin latte if you must, or one of the seasonal pumpkin products crowding supermarket shelves, but remember that real pumpkin is in season, too, and available at farmers markets.
Technically a fruit, pumpkin is high in fiber, potassium and vitamin A, with only 30 calories per cup. It has a creamy, satisfying texture and mild natural sweetness. Even its seeds, also known as pepitas, offer a trove of nutrition including zinc, manganese, iron and happy-making tryptophan along with an addictively buttery flavor.
You just can't beat nature, but food manufacturers try, with products like pumpkin spice cream cheese (Kraft) and pumpkin pie spice potato crisps (Pringles). Many of these products are high in salt, fat or sugar but low in pumpkin. The Pringles crisps are entirely pumpkin-free.
Go for products with real pumpkin seeds rather than faux pumpkin flavor:
Nature's Path Flax Plum pumpkin raisin crunch ($4.39, 12.35 ounces) is organic, mildly sweetened with evaporated cane juice and molasses, and has that crunch thing going with whole wheat, wheat bran and oat bran. Would that it had as many raisins and pumpkin seeds. A 3/4 cup serving contains 210 calories, 4.5 fat grams, no cholesterol, 150 mg sodium, 7 sugar grams and 6 grams of protein.
Back to Nature sunflower and pumpkin seed granola ($4.19, 12 ounces) offers a more pumpkin-seedy experience. The seeds team up with oats, evaporated cane sugar and sunflower seeds for crunchy clusters of granola goodness. A half-cup serving contains 210 calories, 7 fat grams, 140 mg sodium, no cholesterol, 3 fiber grams, 11 grams sugar and 6 protein grams.
Both cereals are available in most supermarkets, but neither is pumpkin-seedy enough to rock your world. For that, splurge on La Tourangelle's roasted pumpkin seed oil ($14.99, 8.65 ounces). This dark, coppery oil is not for cooking but for adding a finishing touch to beans, whole grains and vegetables. Just a drop tastes like roasted pumpkin seeds on performance enhancement drugs. Like most oils, it contains 120 calories per tablespoon. It's available at Fresh Market and other gourmet food stores.
Give real pumpkin a try, too. It's what pumpkin products wish they could be.
Makes 6 servings.
Pumpkin, in season now, is the main attraction in this gently spiced curry. Enjoy with brown rice or whole wheat nan and a green salad for a perfect summer into fall meal.
1 tablespoon coconut or canola oil
2 teaspoons brown mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
2 whole cloves
1 medium onion, sliced thin
3 garlic cloves, minced
2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped (about 2 tablespoons)
1 jalapeño or other medium-hot chile, chopped
2 pounds pumpkin, peeled, seeded and chopped into 1-inch cubes (about 6 cups)
15-ounce can diced tomato
Sea salt and fresh-ground pepper to taste
Handful of cilantro, coarsely chopped
Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the mustard seeds and cover. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes, until you hear the mustard seeds start to pop.
Remove lid and stir in turmeric, cumin seeds, cloves and onion. Add garlic, ginger and jalapeño and cook, stirring occasionally, for another few minutes, until vegetables soften and become aromatic.
Stir in pumpkin and tomatoes. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover and simmer 25 to 30 minutes, until pumpkin is tender.
Season with salt and pepper to taste and add chopped cilantro just before serving.
Per serving: 87 calories, 28 percent calories from fat, 2.9 g fat, 0.2 g sat fat, 0.4 g mono fat, 0 cholesterol, 2.4 g protein, 14 g carbohydrates, 1.7 g fiber, 113 mg sodium