Give thanks, for there is not a pumpkin shortage this year.
Heavy rains drenched the pumpkin harvest last year, and cooks were frantic when they couldn't find canned pumpkin to make their favorite Thanksgiving pie.
"We're more than halfway through harvest, and our 2010 relationship with Mother Nature is better than last year's," Nestlé spokeswoman Roz O'Hearn said via e-mail. "You may recall that extremely heavy rains last year made it impossible to pick the last of the pumpkin crop in the Morton, Ill., area. We had shipped our entire 2009 harvest by Thanksgiving last year. Our 2010 harvest is proceeding, and we are shipping the 2010 harvested pumpkin now.
"In addition to the more favorable weather this season, which is helping our harvest, we planted more acreage this year. We planted earlier and thus began harvest earlier. All are our efforts to restock America's pantry with Libby's pumpkin in time for baking season and fall holidays."
Even though there is plenty of canned pumpkin for this holiday season, here's a way to guarantee that you have plenty for next year: Can your own.
Evans Orchard in Georgetown planted 25 acres of 10 varieties of pumpkins. "This is the best year we have ever had on our giant pumpkins," Jenny Evans said. The giant pumpkins are great for decorating, but for eating and canning, you'll want to get pie pumpkins, which are smaller, sweeter, less grainy-textured pumpkins than the usual jack-o'-lantern types. They also are called sugar pumpkins, or even cheese pumpkins.
Pumpkin is most popular during the holidays, but pumpkin is good in lots of things, from pasta sauce to cheesecake. One cup contains 2.7 grams of fiber, 564 milligrams of potassium and 1.4 milligrams of iron. It also provides calcium, folate and beta carotene.
Gail Damerow, author of The Perfect Pumpkin, gives this quick prep tip: Removing the seeds after steaming is easier than doing so beforehand. Steaming makes the flesh softer, but it also causes the pumpkin to fall apart more easily, so it might be messier. Damerow likes to quarter, steam and mash the flesh, mixing it with black pepper or brown sugar, and serve it as a side dish. You also can purée or whip the flesh and use it as an alternative to mashed potatoes.