I can’t help but wonder to myself “where did the year go?” and as COVID restrictions are lifted little by little, we can certainly enjoy the many perks that Autumn has to offer. Like many others, I see the pumpkin as the symbol for preparing for a fresh new season and the coming holidays. A Fall favorite for many, it’s in the gourd family and is a cultivar of the winter squash.
Some History and Facts
Pumpkins have been growing in North America for 5,000 years so it’s no surprise that they happen to be indigenous to the western hemisphere.
The French explorer, Jacques Cartier, recounted finding what he called “gros melons” translated as ‘big melons’ along the St. Lawrence river region in 1584. They were named pompion which translates as melon and had evolved into the name we know as “Pumpkin”.
The traditional American pumpkin that is used for Halloween decorating and carving is the Connecticut field variety. Illinois is the pumpkin capital of the world, harvesting over 5 million acres in the U.S. The carving of a pumpkin is rooted in Celtic tradition when turnips were carved out to ward off evil spirits on All Hallows Eve. When the Irish immigrated to the U.S. they continued the tradition by replacing the turnip with the pumpkin.
Nutritionally speaking, it boasts richness in beta carotene which converts to Vitamin A, strengthening immune system, preventing cancer and certain eye diseases. Pumpkin contains vitamin C and E - antioxidants that deliver protection against free radical damage. One cup of pumpkin puree contains 10 mg of vitamin C and 2.6 mg of Vitamin E, about 17% and 13% of the recommended daily allowance respectively. One cup of pumpkin puree also contains 7 grams of fiber. Pumpkin also contains minerals such as calcium, magnesium, iron and zinc which all play a vital role in many of our bodily functions and immune system. The flowers of the plant/vine have the highest vitamin C value with 28 mg/100 grams.
What about the seeds?
Pumpkin seeds contain healthy fats like omega-3 fatty acids, protein and minerals like copper, phosphorus, manganese, magnesium and zinc which are also beneficial for the immune system. Pumpkin seeds are high in antioxidants containing Vitamins E and K. The fiber contained in the seeds is especially important as it binds to unwanted excess blood sugar molecules and toxins, excreting them before they wreak havoc. Hence, it may be beneficial for those living with type 2 diabetes.
The seeds can be toasted, added to a granola or eaten alone. You'll find pumpkin seeds sold as pepitas or sprouted pumpkin seeds which is what I use (I use Harvestedforyou.com). Adding 2 tbs of pumpkin seeds to your smoothie boosts minerals, fiber intake and vitamins E and K.
A study showed that consuming pumpkin seeds provides protection against estrogen/progesterone positive breast cancer.
Not only do pumpkins make beautiful fall decorating fun, but there are many ideas for nutritional recipes you can pursue such as soups/bisques, making custards, healthy pies, smoothies, or just plain roasting.
When I get a craving for buttermilk pancakes, I make a low carb version. I use whole grain spelt flour which contains gluten but because of its high fiber, it slows digestion and absorption while reducing blood sugar spikes. Since this is a low sugar recipe, I like to keep it that way by foregoing the maple syrup and eating one like a cookie. It provides energy, nutrients and satiety.
Low Carb Pumpkin Pancakes
2 cups whole grain spelt flour (I use Bob’s Red Mill)
4 tbs ground flaxseed
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon nutmeg
3 tablespoons honey
2 large eggs, slightly beaten
1 cup low fat cultured buttermilk or substitute with cashew milk
½ cup nonfat Greek yogurt or substitute with vegan based yogurt
½ cup canned pureed or mashed pumpkin/squash
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 tablespoons unsalted butter or substitute with plant butter, melted
Place dry ingredients into large mixing bowl and whisk until well blended
Make a well and add the wet ingredients
Stir gently with a fork until well blended and slightly lumpy consistency - this makes a fluffy pancake.
Heat skillet on medium low heat, add a teaspoon of butter to skillet, then add a cup of batter to your hot pan. Lower heat so that the pancake has a chance to cook through the center without burning it on the outside immediately. When you see bubble coming through the batter of the pancake flip it over and cook until light brown.
Makes approximately 6-8 pancakes
And just for fun and flavor…
Pumpkin Coffee Creamer – Au Natural
One 32 ounce container of unsweetened coconut/almond/oatmeal coffee creamer (I personally like Silk half & half which is Oat milk and Coconut milk).
2 tbs canned organic pumpkin puree
½ tsp nutmeg
1 tsp cinnamon
2 tbs honey
Place all ingredients in a blender or place into original container and just shake away!
Here stands our 200 lb pumpkin that we gently managed to transport out of the garden and onto the driveway!