Think of fall and what comes to your mind? Chances are it’s something along the lines of cooler temperatures, leaves changing colors and pumpkins.You’d be hard pressed to find another food that is so closely associated with a season. Pumpkins just mean fall in most parts of the US. And no wonder, pumpkins are one of the most prevalent crops in the US with over 1.5 billion pounds of pumpkin produced each year. We use all that pumpkin poundage too. Pumpkins are one of the most versatile fruits (yes it’s a fruit) around. We use pumpkins for decorations, it’s filling for both sweet and savory dishes, we roast their seeds and they are the centerpiece of many a fall festival.
Pumpkins are among the leaders in multi-tasking fruits: they are attractive, fun and nutritious. They are chock full of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants such as:
Carotenoids: For all those bright orange pumpkins (there are white and green pumpkins too), they owe their orange hue to large amounts of carotenoids. Carotenoids are powerful antioxidants that help fight free radicals that cause havoc in our bodies. Carotenoids help prevent premature aging, cardiovascular diseases and other degenerative issues.
Protein: Pumpkin seeds are a rich source of protein. One ounce of pumpkin seeds contains approximately 7 grams of protein.
Essential Fatty Acids: In addition to being protein-rich, pumpkin seeds are also a good source of Essential Fatty Acids. Essential Fatty Acids provide protection against high blood pressure, arthritis and cancer as well as promote healthy skin.
Vitamin A: Both the seeds and the flesh (insides) have substantial amounts of Vitamin A, which promotes eye health and strengthens the immune system.
Vitamin C: The Vitamin C present in pumpkins help fight free radicals, improves immunity and promotes the production of collagen (which helps prevent signs of aging). The high Vitamin C content in pumpkins also offers protection against various forms of cancer.
Potassium: Pumpkin is loaded with potassium and studies have shown that eating a potassium-rich diet can prevent onset of cardiovascular diseases and hypertension.
Zinc: Pumpkins are also a good source of zinc, which supports bone density, boosts the immune system and promotes reproductive health.
Fiber: Pumpkin flesh is also very low in calories and contains an abundant amount of dietary fiber.
The ideal pumpkin characteristics will depend on what you’re going to do with it: carving pumpkins should be big and have at least one flat side while decorative ones should be rounder without any blemishes. And if you are looking to eat the pumpkin, smaller is better. The smaller ones, those typically about 8" to 10" in diameter, have been developed for eating and are sweeter. The meat is much less stringy and smoother than a decorative pumpkin variety.
Most pumpkin varieties will store for at least 3 months. Some varieties will store successfully for 6 months or more in a cool, dark environment.
When ripe, pumpkin parts can be boiled, baked, steamed, roasted and mashed. And we can’t forget seeded: eating freshly roasted pumpkin seeds after carving a pumpkin are an autumn ritual in many homes. Pumpkins are versatile so think outside the box and try some of these pumpkin recipes this fall:
Moroccan Pumpkin Soup
It’s officially fall, so embrace the season: go for a hike, see the changing leaves, pull out the sweaters and eat some pumpkin!