Fall is turning into winter and the holidays are upon us! Pumpkins have been harvested and turned into dishes, which is why I am spotlighting them this month.
Pumpkin is part of the Cucurbitaceae family, which includes pumpkin, gourds, melons, and squashes. Although pumpkins are typically treated as a vegetable, pumpkin is technically a fruit (with edible seeds) that is fairly versatile as it can be made sweet or enjoyed as a savory dish. They are full of antioxidants and potassium as well as being low in calories. The bright orange color comes from betacarotene, which converts to vitamin A in the body. The current research indicates that a diet rich in foods containing beta-carotene may reduce the risk of developing certain types of cancer and may be protective against heart disease, as well as some degenerative aspects of aging.
Those of us who are fortunate enough to visit pumpkin patches know how they grow as we trudge through the muddy patches. If you have never had the pleasure of going to a patch, the plant itself grows with large and simple leaves while the fruit is fibrous and less sweet than winter squash. There are roughly 84 varieties of pumpkins available in North America including orange, grey, white and vivid red.
Cooking the pumpkin is a lot easier if you simply bake them as opposed to cutting into pieces and boiling and it will concentrate the flavor. For the best-tasting pumpkin, choose smaller ones with a weight of 2 to 5 pounds. Look for unblemished pumpkins that feel heavy for their size and still have their stems avoiding the ones with shiny skins as it means it was harvested too young. Store them in a cool dry place but if refrigerated, it will keep for up to three months.
The earliest archaeological evidence indicating the Cucurbita species were used by humans is 10,000 B.P.
Pumpkin was a staple in the diet of the early Americans because it was easy to grow with corn and beans. Pumpkins and corn used to be grown together in the fields to help with weed control and water conservation which was a horticulture trick the colonists learned from the American Indians. As the colonists food situation improved with the addition of cattle, pigs and wheat, pumpkins were no longer a staple food which was unfortunate as they are full of vitamins and minerals, but this was something that wasn’t discovered until the twentieth century.
Native Americans used pumpkins in a variety of ways including using dried strips from at weaving. They also roasted long strips of pumpkin on the open fire and ate them.
So as you are enjoying the pumpkin extravaganza that has come with holidays, you can think about about all the wonderful nutrients you are providing yourself!
Homemade Pumpkin Pie
1 cup Ground Almond Flour
1/4 cup whole wheat flour, plus more for rolling
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1/2 cup cold butter
5 to 6 tablespoons ice water
2 cups mashed, cooked pumpkin
1 cup evaporated milk (or make your own)
2 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup packed brown sugar (or make your own)
3 tablespoons Honey
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
- Preheat oven to 425º F.
- To make pie crust, add flour, cinnamon, ginger, sugar, salt and cloves to bowl of a food processor fitted with dough blade. Pulse to combine. Cut cold butter into cubes and add to food processor. Pulse until mixture has pea-sized clumps of butter throughout. Pour 4 tablespoons cold water over mixture and pulse until dough begins to come together. Be careful not to overmix. Dump dough onto a clean, floured work surface. Gather mixture into a ball. Drizzle with more cold water if needed, being careful to add just enough water to make a shaggy dough. Pat into a disc and roll into a 12-inch circle. Transfer dough to a 9-inch pie plate.
- In a large bowl, beat pumpkin with evaporated milk, eggs, brown sugar, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and salt with an electric mixer or immersion blender. Mix well. Pour into a prepared crust. Bake 40 minutes or until when a knife or fork when inserted comes out clean.
If you would like to top it with some whipped topping, just grab some heavy whipping cream and pulse on a blender until it thickens. I like to add a teaspoon of almond extract for a little extra oomph!
Based on 8 servings:
316 calories per slice, 26g carbohydrate, 7g protein, 18g sugar, 3g fiber
Bioactive profile of pumpkin: an overview on terpenoids and their health-promoting properties, Domenico Montesano,Gabriele Rocchetti,Predrag Putnik,Luigi Lucini. Current Opinion in Food Science. Volume 22, August 2018, Pages 81-87
Milivojevic, Joann. “The great pumpkin.” Massage Therapy Journal, Fall 2007, p. 20. Academic OneFile, http://link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/A167626407/AONE?u=ohsu&sid=AONE&xid=c83fff29. Accessed 13 Oct. 2018.
Kates, Heather R., Soltis, Pamela S., & Soltis, Douglas E. (2017). Evolutionary and domestication history of Cucurbita (pumpkin and squash) species inferred from 44 nuclear loci. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, 111, 98-109.
Winston, Monica. (2002). Life in early America: The great pumpkin.(history of pumpkin farming). Early American Life (Camp Hill, PA), 33(5), 50.
“A brief history of the pumpkin.” Chatelaine, Oct. 2016, p. 100. Academic OneFile, http://link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/A462786945/AONE?u=ohsu&sid=AONE&xid=eb9fabe1. Accessed 13 Oct. 2018.