Around Halloween of last year I wrote the article: Pumpkins are Not Just for Halloween. There is so much information about pumpkins and Halloween, so I thought I would expand on that article by adding “Part 2”.
I am always pleasantly surprised when I find out that a food item that is healthy AND tastes great. Another surprise was that I thought pumpkins were a vegetable; however, I discovered that it is actually a fruit. That caused me to dig deeper into pumpkin history, folklore, and uses. With what I learned through this research, I will no longer be using pumpkins just for Halloween.
Pumpkins a great health food and can also be used in a variety of ways. Some ways to use pumpkins are in smoothies, lattes, oatmeal, baked, quick breads, side dishes, ice cream, etc.
I searched to find out where pumpkins came from, what makes them so healthy, and a host of other things. It took some searching to find the actual source of information because many websites provide the exact same information.
Brief Pumpkin History
Pumpkins are part of the Cucubita plant family and were originally domesticated from Oaxaca Valley in Mesoamerica down through Mexico, Nicaragua, Peru, and Argentina. Cucurbita pepo is the species that we recognize best known for pumpkins and jack-o-lanterns and according to archaeological recordings, appears to be the first domesticated species. Remains have been found in the Oaxaca Valley in Mexico from 8750 BC to 700.
Throughout the centuries, a variety of explorers carried the seeds to England and back to Eastern United States. Interestingly, many renditions of when colonists and Native Americans celebrated the first Thanksgiving are grossly inaccurate because it was impossible to bake pumpkin pies because early colonists had no ovens in which to bake. Apparently colonists cut the top of the pumpkin off, cleared the insides of stringy flesh and seeds, and filled the empty cavity with spices, honey, and milk. This was then “baked” in the ashes of fires used to cook other foods.
Because seeds take 90 to 120 days to grow, seeds were planted in May and were ready to be harvested in late September or early October. The flesh of pumpkins and gourds were used to feed livestock and they also provided perfect for storage to be used during the harsh winter months in the northeastern United States, when other food items were scarce.
- One cup of pumpkin puree has just 49 calories.
- One cup has 3 grams of dietary fiber, which helps your digestive system. Women need 25 grams each day and men need 38 grams each day. Fiber has been proven to reduce your risk of heart attack by reducing cholesterol levels. Fiber also helps you feel full faster and longer which helps you to eat less, and remain feeling full longer. This makes it a perfect complement for those who are trying to lose weight.
- Vitamin A is essential for good eye sight. Beta carotene that makes the bright orange color converts to vitamin A. Women need 2,310 IU/daily and men need 3,000 IU/daily.
- One cup has 3.4 grams of iron, which supports your immune system.
Interesting Facts and Tips about Pumpkins
Pumpkin freezes well so stock up around Halloween and Thanksgiving, prepare it, and package it in one-cup or two-cup serving sizes for later use. The instructions for preparing and freezing fresh pumpkins are at Pick Your Own. The best pumpkins to use for baking are the smaller pumpkins (Cucurbita moschata) such as: Sugar Pumpkins, Baby Pam, Autumn Gold, Fairytale, or Cinderella Pumpkins. The reason is that that are sold for jack-o-lanterns are stringy whereas the pumpkins above are not. AllRecipes.com provides a video to show you how to cube a pumpkin. Pumpkin puree is best when frozen only for 6-9 months so the integrity and quality are still at maximum levels. Therefore, I only freeze the puree for up to 9 months because I can get new pumpkins the next year.
If you prefer to use the canned pumpkin puree, double up on the cans that you buy at supermarkets (to capitalize on the amount of money you can save, use some of the tips I offer in my article: 10 Step Supermarket Combination Technique) when the cans go on sale and you will have canned pumpkin puree throughout the year to keep in the pantry to make many homemade pumpkin recipes such as: muffins, quick bread, smoothies, ravioli, soup, etc.
If you found this article helpful, please let me know. If you would like to know more about other topics, let me know and I’ll complete the research and will post an article to provide the results of my research.
Thanks for visiting!
Some different recipes to try
- Creamy Pumpkin Sage Fettuccine
- Pumpkin Spice Cake
- Check Out All Recipes for a variety of great tasting pumpkin recipes
- Southern Foods also provides some great tasting pumpkin recipes