Pumpkin is a variety of squash, a group of herbaceous vines found across the world. Thanks to the Irish, people nowadays simply think of pumpkins as traditional Halloween decorations. The only other time we use them often is as Thanksgiving pie filling. This is quite wrong as it distracts from the numerous health benefits eating pumpkin flesh has.
Pumpkin is a nutritious orange vegetable, technically a fruit, that has low calories but is rich in vitamins and minerals. The seeds and leaves of the plant are also edible and quite nutritious.
The reason why pumpkins are rarely consumed outside the festivities of Thanksgiving, is a lack of knowledge on the numerous ways pumpkins can be prepared or incorporated into salads, desserts, and soups.
Pumpkins have relatively high levels of beta carotene which is a potent antioxidant that is converted by the body into vitamin A. Beta carotene offers protection against heart diseases and decreases risk of age-related vision loss due to macular degeneration.
Pumpkin flesh is rich in fiber, vitamin C and potassium. Fiber improves digestion and prevents constipation. Vitamin C, also called ascorbic acid, enhances your immunity system. Ingesting potassium rich foods helps regulate blood pressure and prevents water retention.
Other essential vitamins and minerals found in pumpkin include:
- vitamin E
- vitamin B6
- pantothenic acid
In order to consume pumpkin and enjoy the numerous health benefits it offers; it is important to have it prepared properly. There are number of healthy recipes one can use to cook or bake delicious pumpkin-based foods. These include:
This delicious creamy warm soup transforms ordinary boring pumpkin flesh into a rich tasty first course.
- 3 (14.5-ounce) cans of chicken broth
- 2 (15-ounce) cans of pumpkin purée
- 1/3 US cup of creamy peanut butter
- 1 (11.5-ounce) can of pear nectar
- 2 tablespoons of grated fresh ginger root
- 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons of finely chopped green onions
- ½ teaspoon of kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon of fresh lime juice
- ¼ teaspoon of ground cayenne pepper
- Chopped chives or mint (optional)
- Toasted pumpkin seeds (optional)
- 1. To a 6-quart saucepan, add chicken broth, pumpkin puree, and pear nectar. Bring to a boil over high heat. Cover the saucepan and allow it to simmer for 10 minutes on low heat.
- 2. Blend 1 cup of pumpkin mixture with peanut butter until smooth. Pour the pumpkin mixture into the saucepan. Add green onion, ginger root, garlic, cayenned pepper, lime juice, and salt. Cook for 15 minutes over medium heat.
- 3. Serve the soup warm in soup plates and garnish with chives or mint and pumpkin seeds, if desired.
Homemade pumpkin bread is a fall delicacy that is versatile. It is suitable for breakfast, perfect as an afternoon snack, and an absolutely delightful treat after dinner.
- 2 ½ cups of all-purpose flour, plus more for pans
- 1 cup of (2 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature, plus more for pans
- 1 cup of granulated sugar
- 1 cup of light-brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon of baking soda
- 2 teaspoons of baking powder
- 2 teaspoons of cinnamon
- ¾ teaspoon of ground cloves
- 2 cups of grated pumpkin (use a small-holed grater)
- ½ cup of buttermilk
- 3 eggs
- 1 ½ teaspoon of vanilla extract
- 1. Preheat the oven to 330°F. Butter and flour two 9- by 5-inch loaf pans.
- 2. Mix sugars, flour, baking soda, baking powder, and spices in a large bowl. Add grated pumpkin and toss.
- 3. Whisk eggs, butter, buttermilk, and vanilla in a bowl and stir into dry ingredients.
- 4. Transfer the mix into the prepared pans and bake on the middle shelf of the oven for about 35 minutes.
Paleo Pumpkin Fries
- ½ pumpkin or butternut squash
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- ½ teaspoon of salt
- ½ teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper
- 1. Preheat your oven broiler to 350°F.
- 2. Prepare a baking sheet by adding either a sheet of parchment paper or a silicone matt or by just lightly greasing it to keep the pumpkin fries from sticking to the pan.
- 3. Peel and slice the pumpkin or butternut squash into slices that are around 1cm thick.
- 4. Cut the pumpkin slices into strips around 1cm thick.
- 5. Add the olive oil to a bowl with the strips of raw pumpkin. Mix them well until the pumpkin strips are completely covered with olive oil.
- 6. Arrange the pumpkin strips on the prepared baking sheet in a single layer leaving space between them. Lightly season them with pepper, salt, pepper, and/or any other preferred sugar or spices.
- 7. Put the pan in the oven on the top near the broiler and broil at high heat until the pumpkin strips start to brown and get crispy edges.
- 8. Remove the pan from the oven and flip the pumpkin strips over and broil on the other side until crispy.
- 9. Remove the pan from the oven and sprinkle with more salt, pepper, and any other herbs and spices that you wish to add. Your paleo pumpkin fries are ready to serve.
Have Fun with Pumpkin
Pumpkin is a versatile tasty nutritious vegetable. There are numerous delicious dishes you can prepare using pumpkin. Do not be limited to these or any other recipes. Be an adventurous cook and have fun with pumpkin. Chances are you will come up with a memorable healthy meal for you and your family.