Thursday, October 28, 2010
Pumpkin derives from the Greek word pepon (large melon). They are believed to originate in North America and seeds have been found dating back to 7000 and 5500 B.C. in Mexico. They are produced on all continents except for Antarctica. Pumpkins are monoecious, having both male and female flowers on the same plant. They are a squash-like fruit with nutrients such as lutein and both alpha and beta carotene which produces vitamin A.
Pumpkins are very versatile in their uses for cooking. Most parts of the pumpkin are edible, including the fleshy shell, the seeds, the leaves and even the flowers. In the United States, pumpkin is a very popular Halloween and Thanksgiving staple. When ripe, the pumpkin can be boiled, baked, steamed or roasted. In its Native North America, it is a very important traditional part of the autumn harvest, eaten mashed and making its way into soups and purees. Often it is made into pies. Seeds are roasted and eaten as a snack.
Pumpkins that are small and green may be eaten in the same way as zucchini or squash. Research suggests that chemical compounds found in pumpkin promote regeneration of damaged pancreatic cells, resulting in increased bloodstream insulin levels. Pumpkin extract may be a very good product for pre-diabetic people, as well as those who already have diabetes.
Canned pumpkin is recommended by veterinarians as a dietary supplement for dogs and cats experiencing digestive problems. High fiber content helps aid proper digestion. Raw pumpkin can be fed to poultry as a supplement to regular feed during winter to maintain egg production.
The pumpkin carved as a jack-o-lantern for Halloween originated around 1866 in North America. It is believed that jack-o-lanterns ward off demons. Britain and Ireland have a long tradition of carving lanterns from vegetables. In the United States, carved pumpkins are associated with the harvest season.
We used to display our carved pumpkins in front during Halloween but after numerous consecutive years of dealing with pumpkin smashers, we decided to keep our creations indoors for our own personal delight. :(
Toasting pumpkin seeds makes for a healthy dose of magnesium, iron and zinc. Cooking pumpkin seeds started with the American Indians. They held pumpkins as one of their coveted foods. The Indians not only treasured pumpkin seeds for the health benefits, but also medicinally as well.
Carve the top off of the pumpkin and remove all of the pulp and seed (this is quite messy and squishy.) Try separating the seeds into a colander or sieve and the pulp onto some newspaper. You won't be able to separate all the pulp off the slimy seeds, but try to get most of it. Rinse the seeds and place them into a pan 3/4 full of water and bring to a boil. Add a few pinches of salt to the water and let cook for about 15 minutes. This will remove the rest of the pulp from the seed and also allow the salt to permeate the seeds so they will get a fuller flavor when roasted. Spread the seeds onto a baking pan and allow them to sit out overnight to dry. The next day, sprinkle the seeds with your favorite toppings from salt, garlic salt, margarine, butter, olive oil, cayenne pepper, salad supreme, or any of your favorite toppings and spices. Be creative. Then put the seasoned dry seeds that are spread out on the baking pan into the oven for about 25-30 minutes at 325 degrees, keeping an eye on them so they do not overcook. A light browning is all they need. Take them out of the oven, let them cool a little and enjoy!
I had to share some of the amazing things folks did with pumpkins, some of whom are my friends, others are carvings I found while browsing. I get a kick out of how creative people are, especially since my carvings are always so basic. I continue to enjoy the creations others share, hence, I share with you.
Hope you have fun this Halloween weekend and as always, be safe. xo