Pumpkins: more than Halloween and Autumn decor
Chances are you’ve seen a lot of pumpkins around over the last week: in shops; on doorsteps; and tabletops as Halloween and Autumn décor. However, they are more than just decorative. They provide essential nutrients that can be especially useful at this time of year. Like I always say, Mother Nature provides us with what we need, when we need it.
Pumpkin is a generic term for certain varieties of squash fruit such as Curcurbita pepo, Curcurbita moschata and Curcurbita maxima. Part of the gourd family (Cucurbitaceae) they are characterized by a hard white to orange rind.
They have an abundance of vitamin and minerals that are beneficial to your health such as: Vitamins A, C, E, K and all the Bs expect B12; and the minerals, Potassium, Magnesium, Copper, Iron. The seeds also have Phosphorous and Zinc.
Conditions pumpkins are good for
Pumpkins are high in the antioxidant vitamins of A, C and E. These reduce immune (and other) cell damage from free radicals and thus help protect your body’s your immune response. Vitamin A also strengthens intestinal lining helping it be more resistant to infections.
Pumpkins also contain iron which helps keep your immune system functioning properly.
The high levels of vitamin A support your vision. One cup provides about 200% of the daily recommended allowance. They also contain lutein and zeaxanthin which help protect eyes from cataracts and macular degeneration.
One cup of pumpkin contains about 16% of the daily recommended potassium allowance. The National Institutes of Health have found that increasing a person’s intake of potassium can reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, and high blood pressure. Low levels of potassium may cause arteries to stiffen and calcify. Potassium helps relax blood vessels and rid the body of too much sodium.
The high levels of antioxidants and fibre are also essential for helping to keep your heart healthy. Fibre can lower blood cholesterol levels by binding with the cholesterol in the foods you eat and preventing its absorption. One cup of pumpkin contains about 7grams of fibre.
The A,C,E antioxidant vitamins are important for skin health as they help reduce UV damage. Vitamin A can also improve the appearance and texture of your skin.
The Vitamin A in pumpkin may help improve how well your blood sugar is managed. The high levels of fibre can help reduce blood sugar spikes after consuming carbohydrates.
A factor in cancer prevention
Pumpkins are high in carotenoids, the pigment produced by orange, yellow and red fruits and vegetables. Studies suggest that carotenoids might reduce carcinogenesis, that is, the process by which normal, healthy cells transform into cancer cells.
Symbolism of the pumpkin
- harvest and abundance therefore gratitude and generosity.
- potential, as they contain many seeds to grow more pumpkins.
Working with the energy of pumpkins
As you prepare a pumpkin dish, think about something you’d like to achieve and set this personal growth intention into your cooking and / or think about something you are grateful for. Studies show practicing gratitude can reduce blood pressure, reduce stress and improve sleep.
Wash the seeds from this pumpkin and dry them on a paper towel. When completely dry, place in them in a labelled envelop and have them ready to plant next spring so your intentions are carried on.
· 1 butternut squash cut into chunks
· 1 sweet potato cut into chunks
· 2 large carrots cut into chunks
· 1 leek sliced
· 1 teaspoon chopped ginger
· Chopped chilli – amount according to your taste
· ½ cup red lentils
· 10 cardamon pods
· 1 teaspoon cumin powder
· 1 tablespoon coriander powder
· Hand-full of fresh chopped coriander (leaves and stalks separate)
· Salt, pepper, coconut oil
· 1 ½ Litres of vegetable stock
1. Heat coconut oil in a large saucepan and sauté the sliced leek.
2. Add the ginger and chilli and sauté for another minute.
3. Add the butternut squash, sweet potato and carrots and sauté for a few more minutes.
4. Mix in the lentils, podded cardamon seeds, cumin and coriander powder, fresh coriander stalks and pepper.
5. Add the stock and bring to the boil. Reduce to simmer and leave with lid half on for 30 -40 minutes or until vegetables are soft.
6. Add salt to taste and blend until smooth.
7. Top with fresh coriander when serving. You may also like to add a dollop of coconut yoghurt and roasted pumpkin seeds ( see instructions below).
Oven baked pumpkin and lentil curry
· 1 large red onion sliced
· 1 teaspoon of chopped ginger
· Chopped chilli (amount according to taste)
· 1 butternut squash chopped into 1-2 cm chunks
· ¼ cup of your favourite curry paste
· 160 mls coconut cream
· Can / vacuum pack of puy lentils
· Hand-full of fresh chopped coriander
1. Preheat oven to 200 degrees Celsius.
2. Add the onion, ginger, chilli and squash to a large lidded oven proof casserole dish.
3. Mix in the curry paste.
4. Cover with freshly boiled water – enough to just cover the vegetables and mix again.
5. With the lid on, bake in the oven for 40 mins.
6. Remove from oven. Add the coconut cream and mix. Add the lentils and mix. Put the lid back on and bake for another 15 mins.
7. Remove from heat and mix. Serve with grain of choice. Scatter on some fresh coriander.
8. Roasted pumpkin seeds are also good sprinkled on top of the soup.
Roasted pumpkin seeds
1. Wash the seeds from the squash you are cooking with.
2. Pat dry with paper towel.
3. Toss them in a tablespoon of olive oil and add any spices of your choice – paprika is good.
4. Spread on a tray and roast in the oven for about 10 mins.
Over to you
How will you prepare, cook and eat your pumpkin? I'd love you to share your recipes.