Pumpkin and spice and everything nice!
“Child, if you’d lost all your faith, I couldn’t be here. And here I am” said Cinderella’s Godmother and with a swish of her wand turned the inconspicuous pumpkin into a beautiful carriage! And here hidden in a fairy tale the pumpkin gets its status quo. This wondrous carotenoid dominant fruit really knows how to underplay itself. As we learn more about it one simply cannot resist its varied tastes and health benefits. It lends itself beautifully into gourmet recipes. Pumpkins are beautifully textured and add warmth during those cold winter months. Seated comfortably high on the nutrition chart the pumpkin has an array of interesting uses.
Pumpkin being a natural hydrant makes it beneficial for weight watchers.
There are many creative ways pumpkin can be incorporated into meals, including desserts, soups, salads, preserves, and even as a substitute for butter. Yes, you read that right, Pumpkin Butter! Imagine a butter you can gorge on with no guilt at all and is also a great butter substitute with amazing dietetic benefits.
Pumpkins contain potassium and Vitamin A. Pumpkin flowers are edible.
The largest pumpkin pie ever made was over five feet in diameter and weighed over 350 pounds. It used 80 pounds of cooked pumpkin, 36 pounds of sugar, 12 dozen eggs and took six hours to bake.
In early colonial times, pumpkins were used as an ingredient for the crust of pies, not the filling. Pumpkins were once recommended for removing freckles and curing snake bites.
Native Americans flattened strips of pumpkins, dried them and made mats.
The largest pumpkin ever grown weighed 1,140 pounds.
Pumpkins are 90 % water and a hundred grams of pumpkin gives you 26 calories, 0.1g total fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 340 mg potassium and 7g carbohydrate.
Pumpkin offers 170% Vitamin A, 15% Vitamin C and 5% Vitamin B-6, all this is based on a daily value of a 2,000 calorie diet
John Howden, a farmer from Massachusetts developed the Howden Pumpkin in the 1960’s, these pumpkins have a thick stem, shallow ribs, thin flesh in relation to size and are perfect for carving. They are the most popular carving pumpkins in America. Other varieties like the Kabocha, Sugar-pie and Carnival thrive in the farmers markets and are sought after to use in cooking.
Pumpkin and Halloween
There is a line from a poem written by a Massachusetts settler that goes “We have pumpkins at morning and pumpkins at noon, if it were not for pumpkins we should be undoon.”
The pumpkin boasts a celebrity status in the West. Halloween is not Halloween without pumpkins. Come Halloween, bakeries and coffee shops stock their shelves with pumpkin flavoured treats, from muffins and lattes to ravioli. These traditions come with a history of immigrants from Ireland and Scotland entering America in the 1800s and bringing the tradition of carving pumpkins instead of turnips as,their wonderful soft flesh was easy to carve and thus came the existence of pumpkin jack-o-lanterns that are a house hold creation in America. Pumpkin carving is a multi-million dollar industry; American farmers have for years explored new ideas to breed new lines of squash especially for carving.
To top off all the cultural nuances of the pumpkin the TV show Saturday Night Live in 2016 had Tom Hanks play a fictional character named David S. Pumpkins who wears a black suit with prints of orange pumpkins and dances to music. The character was created by Bobby Moynihan; this character brought the modest pumpkin alive!
Pumpkin has carved a niche space in the skin care segment. It is packed with fruit enzymes that boost cell turnover to brighten and to get smooth skin. Bath and Body Works, a popular cosmetics and daily care brand went on to create soaps, lotions and such using pumpkin extracts in the fall of 2013.
Fit in the Subcontinental Cuisine
Pumpkin has been around in Indian cuisine ever since the existence of maize. Known for its ability to burn fat, it is consumed extensively in India as part of the main course or an accompaniment. Pumkin porriyal and sambar in the south to kadhu ka halwa in the north, it is palatable to everyone across the sub continent. Pumpkin is broken at auspicious occasions in India. Belief also has it that a pumpkin tied to the post of the house door wards of evil and protects the house bringing it peace, calm and positivity.
Pumpkin and Ayurveda
Ayurveda has a significant position in Indian history and the pumpkin has a vital place in this practice. Pumpkin seeds for example have been used extensively in Ayurvedic medicine and by those who practice this diet. Pumpkin seeds are packed with nutrition including protein, minerals, B vitamins and amino acids like tryptophan. These nutrients are known to support bladder function and urinary flow. Due to their high tryptophan content, pumpkin seeds are known to help reduce anxiety and improve sleep. They also help balance cholesterol levels and strengthen bones. Additionally, the antioxidants and essential fatty acids in pumpkin seeds aid relief in inflammation of joints.
Hence, it’s time to treat your body with these wonderfully nutty nourishing seeds.
Pumpkin and the Vegans
The Vegan community largely depends on plant based sources for their daily dose of protein and what better than pumpkins and their seeds as a protein supplement. To make a vegan meal interesting and scrumptious the pumpkin has paved the way to alternative dishes like pumpkin soup, vegan pumpkin ravioli and a guilt free rich pumpkin parfait. The vegans have happily embraced this sunshine yellow fruit.
As ITC Chef Harpavan says, “Almost all the parts of the pumpkin plant: fruit, leaves, flowers and seeds, are edible” He says “pumpkin can be employed in a variety of delicious recipes either baked, stewed or fried”. However, he suggests it is eaten best after steam-cooking in order to get maximum nutrients. He continues to share that, “In China, young pumpkin leaves are consumed as cooked greens or in soups” He also cites that, “Pumpkins are readily available in the market year-round but buy completely developed whole pumpkin fruit instead of its sections. To buy a good pumpkin look for a mature fruit that features a fine woody note on tapping, heavy in hand and stout stem and avoid the one with wrinkled surface, cuts and bruises. Once at home, ripe, mature pumpkin may be stored for many weeks in a cool, wellventilated place at room temperature” However, he suggests, cut sections should be placed inside the refrigerator where it can keep well for a few days.
This humble squash has been around for ages now. It is humble because it is easy to grow, demands less and produces more. From farmers to kitchen garden enthusiasts, the pumpkin does not let them down. It has inspired many great chefs from the likes of Nigella Lawson and her delicious pumpkin cheese cake to Jamie Oliver and his pumpkin spice pie. This fruit has had an unassuming beginning to a revolutionary change! The pumpkin has moved its way across geographies, cultures and culinary use. With all its diverse uses the pumpkins have their root stemmed deep in the nutrition chart.
The perfectly poised soul food wins palates galore and is here to stay!