“Hail, old October, bright and chill, First freedman from the summer sun? Spice high the bowl, and drink your fill! Thank heaven, at last the summer’s done!” — Thomas Constable

Pumpkins, pumpkins, everywhere! What is more pleasurable than picking, carving or cooking this gorgeous autumn fruit? Pumpkins are now available to purchase in more colors than ever before, including pale yellow, petal soft pink, powder blue, a whole range of tans, luminous white, and of course the ever-popular bright orange. Ranging in size from petite to gargantuan, pumpkins are also an essential element of fall décor.

Fresh pumpkin is a versatile and vital source of nutrition, providing essential nutrients that enhance the body inside and out. A rich source of vitamin C and A, eating more pumpkin can beautify skin, hair and nails. The potassium in pumpkins may be effective in normalizing blood pressure and lowering the risk of heart disease. While vibrantly colored pumpkin flesh supplies plenty of healthy benefits, pumpkin seeds are also a powerhouse of goodness. Seeds roasted with sweet and savory seasonings transform into a tasty source of zinc, magnesium, phosphorus, copper, iron, manganese and omega-3 fatty acids.

Pumpkin adds an exciting element of flavor to so many autumnal dishes. When cubed and roasted, these delectable little nuggets can enliven sturdy green salads of kale, fresh figs and dried cranberries, or will enhance grain - based salads such as farro or barley with toasted walnuts, golden raisins, and parmesan or goat cheese.

Pumpkin is fantastic in so many savory applications, including lasagna, ravioli, gnocchi, risotto, chili, soups, stews, and even grilled cheese sandwiches. Pumpkin hummus is a delicious snack and there is no end to the number of dip recipes that can incorporate pumpkin.

Pumpkin adds particular pleasure to autumn baking. Pureed pumpkin can be added to pancake batter, tea bread recipes, cakes, cobblers, crisps, rice puddings, bread puddings, muffins, crepes and cookies.

Pumpkin partners well with spices such as cinnamon, ginger, cloves, cayenne pepper, nutmeg, and allspice. These complementary seasonings also have health enhancing benefits, including anti-inflammatory ability, possible reduction of joint and muscle aches and blood sugar management.

Enjoy the many pleasures of pumpkin as you prepare a delicious life!

Roasted Pumpkin Puree

1 3-4 lb. sugar pumpkin

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Wash pumpkin and dry well. Place pumpkin on a parchment paper lined baking sheet. (Aluminum foil would be OK too) Poke a few holes in the pumpkin with a knife. Roast for 35-40 minutes or until quite soft. Remove from the oven and let cool. Slice pumpkin in half, remove seeds and set seeds aside. Scoop out flesh. Process flesh in a food processor or blender until quite smooth. Store in the refrigerator for one week or freeze for three months.

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

2 cups clean, dry, fresh pumpkin seeds

2 tablespoons grapeseed or olive oil

1/2 teaspoon sea salt (or any other seasonings you prefer)

In a large bowl, mix the seeds with the oil and salt. Spread on a baking sheet and roast in a 350 degree oven for 12-15 minutes, or until lightly browned and crisp. Remove from the oven, and let cool.

Autumn Pumpkin Dip

1/2 cup corn kernels (fresh or frozen)

1/3 cup pumpkin puree

1/3 cup grated cheddar cheese

2 ounces light cream cheese

1/4 cup Greek yogurt

1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika

1/4 teaspoon chili powder

2 tablespoons chopped cilantro or parsley

Process first eight ingredients in a food processor or blender until very smooth. Stir in cilantro or parsley. Serve with tortilla chips and fresh veggies.

Robin Glowa, HHC, AADP, “The Conscious Cook,” writes about preparing a delicious life and presents healthy food workshops throughout New England. She is a professional cook, organic gardener and a graduate of the Institute for Integrative Nutrition and Columbia University Teachers College.