With Halloween just around the corner, there’s no doubt that Halloween pumpkins are popping out in just about everywhere. While we notice these a lot more during this time of the year, pumpkins deserve a lot more attention than we give it.
Belonging to the Curcurbita family, pumpkins are actually fruits that are eaten as vegetables. These annual growers are frost sensitive and thrive best in warm weather. They can be quite easy to grow, with literally hundreds of varieties to choose from. In fact, these are one of the most commonly grown crops both commercially and in homes.
What’s So Special?
There are a lot of reasons that we should be eating up these brightly coloured gourds. For one, they are full of vitamins and minerals. Pumpkins carry large amounts of antioxidants which fight off free radicals in the body and help with anti-aging. It is also rich in vitamin A, carotene and other phytonutrients, zinc and omega-3 fatty acids among other things. In short, pumpkins are one of the healthiest things you can eat. Did I mention that it is also low in calories and does not contain any starch, making it ideal for those are looking to lose weight?
More than Just Pie
As food, pumpkins don’t always make it to the menu except on occasions such as the one mentioned earlier. It is most popular as lawn decorations and pie. However, there are many different ways that you can serve up this humble garden crop. Pumpkins vary in size from extra-large to small, but all have a similar yellow to orange flesh that carries a sweet and creamy flavour.
This makes it ideal for many different dishes. One of the easiest and simplest ways to prepare pumpkin is by roasting it, just like early discoverers did. A bit of extra virgin olive oil, salt, and pepper will make the flavours pop out even more. Frying is also another option for those not worried about the grease.
These also make a rich and hearty soup that pairs well with bread. Speaking of bread, pumpkins are also a great addition to baked goods such as muffins, loaves, cookies and your favourite pie. Fancier preparations for this gourd can include soufflé’s, ravioli and custards.
More health-conscious folks can have their share of pumpkin too. It can be eaten, raw as is, steamed or boiled. If that isn’t enough, pumpkin seeds can be roasted and eaten as snacks or used in some other dishes.
Dress It Up
Although pumpkins are delicious as is, there are some herbs and spices that work very well to bring out its taste. Cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and other warm nutty spices are always a great companion for pumpkin. Vanilla, being a mild and classic flavouring is good for baking and desserts made from pumpkin. If you are cooking up something savoury and want an edge to think about adding ginger, curry powder, and gram masala or chili powder. Herbs such as sage and thyme, or good old garlic also do wonders.
The next time that you see a humble pumpkin, don’t wait until “Hallows Eve” to cook up something delicious.
Picture thanks to Kam Abbott