Bins of pumpkins are everywhere as our fall harvest ends and Halloween nears! Pumpkins most often remind us of Jack-o-lanterns but pumpkins have many uses. Consider baking with them or serving one as a delicious main course surprise. Carve them, cook them, or use the seeds but bring home a seasonal pumpkin while the harvest is plenty. Pumpkins have something to offer everyone.

Pumpkin carving origins are part of American folklore. Colorful tales about lost souls and warding off vampires, strangers or spirits go back centuries but, in America, jack-o-lanterns debuted as part of Thanksgiving festivities. It's hard to say exactly how carved pumpkins became an American Halloween tradition. Some believe it's a custom adapted from the Irish tradition of "Hoberdy's Lantern"--- turnips carved with frightening faces to ward off evil.

Take a second look at those pumpkin bins and you may notice different varieties. The big ones are most popular for carving because they afford space for that giant smile but the smaller dark orange sugar pumpkin is the best to eat. Carving pumpkins can be eaten too but large pumpkins will be bland and stringy. If you've only tasted canned pumpkin brace yourself for a treat. Cut the sugar pumpkin in quarters, seed it, and steam it. Use the steamed pumpkin in baking: pies, cookies, cheesecake, muffins, cakes, pancakes, tortes etc. Roast the pumpkin and add to baked pasta for a hearty and delicious winter meal. Roast and puree it for a soup delight or bake it whole and stuff it for a filling and warm fall entree. Don't pass up this opportunity to enjoy this short season pleasure.

Pumpkin is a low cholesterol, low salt, nutrition star. Boasting a range of anti-oxidants, b-complex vitamins, and flavonoids, it's also rich in minerals. It's a food with high doses of nutritive aids for vision and valuable ingredients for skin health. Don't throw out the seeds! They outperform the meat for nutritional health benefit. Pumpkin seed extract is used commercially in emollients, emulsifiers, and anti-aging products. Create your own spa time with homemade pumpkin body creme or a honey pumpkin exfoliating mask. Dry and roast the seeds for 15 minutes and enjoy the zinc, vitamin E, proteins, and iron packed into this small seed! Long after pumpkins disappear from produce displays the seeds are still available in most health food stores. Consider adding them to your diet for a health boost.

Pumpkin racingPumpkins are star growers. Safeway sponsors an annual World Champion Pumpkin Weigh-Off contest. This year's winner was 2,058 pounds and it earned the farmer over $13,000 in prize money. Pumpkins earn people money and spread fun through photo contests, drawing contests, carving contests, and races.

Soon jack-o-lanterns will be glow from neighborhood porches. Witches, goblins, and zombies will roam our streets. Join in the fun or get away from it all but be sure to bring home a pumpkin. Explore its sweet rich flavor and enjoy its health benefits!