Did you know that ninety-nine percent of all pumpkins in the US are used for Halloween jack-o’-lanterns? While carving pumpkins is a lot of fun, there’s much more to explore with this fall harvest than Halloween.
Pumpkin is a member of the winter squash family, and has been cultivated by the Mexicans and Native Americans for centuries. The Native Americans revered winter squash, actually burying it with their dead to provide nourishment for the final journey.
The many health benefits of pumpkin include:
- An exceptional source of carotene, an anti-oxidant that is protective against cancers, particularly lung cancer, and heart disease.
- Blood sugar supportive, which protects against the development of diabetes
- High in vitamin C and zinc, which is great for the immune system and the skin
- A rich source of B vitamins, including B1, B5, folic acid, and niacin
- Medicinal for digestive conditions
- A very good source of dietary fiber, which helps to release toxins and keep your body regular
- High in sleep-promoting tryptophan
Selecting and Storing:
When it comes to cooking pumpkin, small sugar pumpkins are ideal. Their texture is silkier and taste is sweeter than the larger varieties used to carve jack-o’-lanterns.
Like all winter squash, pumpkin has a thick outer skin and stores remarkably well, up to six months in the right conditions. Store in a cool, dark place away from heat or cold.
Quick Prep Ideas:
- Roast it. Cut it in half by cutting directly through the stem. Remove the seeds. Place cut side down in a baking dish and cover with ½ inch water. Bake at 350 degrees for about 1 hour, or until tender. Top with a drizzle of olive oil or maple syrup and enjoy.
- Mash it. Using roasted pumpkin, mash with your favorite milk, olive oil and sea salt.
- Puree it.Using roasted pumpkin, puree in a food processor for breads, cakes, muffins, pies, and soups. Even add it to oatmeal! Try my recipe for pumpkin muffins here.
- Blend it. Here, my favorite Pumpkin Pie Smoothie. Yum!
Don’t forget to celebrate your seeds! Pumpkin seeds are a good source of zinc, a hard to find nutrient in foods. Zinc is great for your immune system, your skin, and good prostate health. Deficiencies are linked to picky-eating behaviors, so serve them to your kids!
I like to dry-roast seeds in an oven preheated to 160-180 degrees. Place a thin layer of seeds (that have been washed and dried) on a tray lined with parchment paper. Add your favorite spices. Roast for 20-25 minutes.
Your Simple Action Plan:
This week, look for sugar pumpkins at your local market. Choose one way to upgrade your diet with fresh pumpkin this season.