From pumpkin spiced lattes at Starbucks to pumpkin scented candles at Bath and Body Works, pumpkin has taken over this season! But behind all the hype lies a vegetable that’s not only delicious, it’s also a nutritional superstar.

History

Pumpkins are native to North American and have a very ancient history – we’ve found pumpkin seeds from over 8000 years ago1! Native American tribes relied on the pumpkin as a staple for survival. They used pumpkin as a food source by roasting the flesh over fire, baking the seeds and even grinding dried pumpkin into flour. Christopher Columbus was then said to have taken pumpkin seeds back to Europe on one of his excursions.1 Did you know that pumpkins were even once recommended for removing freckles and snake bites? While these recommendations have certainly been debunked, read on for some very real health benefits of pumpkins!

Health Benefits

Pumpkin is an excellent source of beta carotene, which is converted into vitamin A in the body.2 Vitamin A not only helps your eyes and skin stay healthy, it’s also a powerful antioxidant that can help lower the risk of certain diseases such as cancer and heart disease. There is even some research showing that pumpkins may provide anti-microbial benefits to protect against infectious microorganisms.3 The seeds found in pumpkins also provide health benefits – they are a good source of iron and are rich in protein. Pumpkin seed consumption has been associated with a lower risk of certain cancers. They are also a source of tryptophan, an amino acid that increases mood-boosting serotonin!3

Buying and Storing Pumpkins

Pumpkins are grown in Ontario and are available in September and October. When looking for pumpkins to cook, choose small pie pumpkins. Small to medium sizes are best because of their finer texture and flavour. You can keep pumpkins in a cool dry place for several months, however once it is cut up, it is best to wrap it, refrigerate it and use it up within 5 days.2

Using Pumpkins

When it comes to eating pumpkin, there’s way more to it than just pumpkin pie. Pumpkin is excellent in savory dishes such as casseroles, soups and stews. To roast your pumpkin, all you need to do is cut it lengthwise, scoop out the strings and seeds, and bake it in the oven for 45 to 50 minutes at 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Once cooked, the flesh is soft enough to be easily be scooped out of its peel. Voila! Baked pumpkin that can be substituted for sweet potato or acorn squash for an excellent side dish.

Canned pumpkin is just as nutritious as fresh – but make sure to choose canned pumpkin with no added sugar! Try mixing a bit in your morning oatmeal for a healthy seasonal breakfast.  And don’t forget the seeds! Pumpkin seeds make for a delicious healthy snack. Try roasting them on a baking sheet until gold and crunchy. For a perfect example of how pumpkin complements both sweet and savory flavors, try the below recipe from Fork Knife Swoon!

Sweet and Salty Roasted Brown Sugar Pumpkin Seed Recipe4

  • 1 ½ cups pumpkin seeds
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 ½ tablespoons brown sugar
  • ¾ teaspoons cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoons salt

We hope we’ve inspired you to enjoy pumpkins not only this season, but all year round! See you next week Ravens!

  1. Pumpkin: A Brief History (2013) https://ipm.missouri.edu/meg/2013/10/Pumpkin-A-Brief-History/
  2. All About Pumpkins (2017) http://www.unlockfood.ca/en/Articles/Cooking-Food-Preparation/Pumpkins.aspx
  3. Medicinal and biological potential of pumpkin: an updated review (2010) https://www.cambridge.org/core/services/aop-cambridge-core/content/view/614835C9F2CABAAAFD5E7925A72E7F9F/S0954422410000107a.pdf/medicinal_and_biological_potential_of_pumpkin_an_updated_review.pdf 
  4. Sweet and Salty Roasted Brown Sugar Pumpkin Seeds (2015) http://www.forkknifeswoon.com/sweet-and-salty-roasted-brown-sugar-pumpkin-seeds/ 

Monday, October 29, 2018 in , ,
Share: Twitter, Facebook