Thursday, October 6, 2011

Pumpkin: Super Fall Vegetable

Pumpkin comes with fall....courtesy of
Pumpkins make good luminaries—Jack-O-Lanterns are synonymous with Halloween. They make beautiful fall decorations and if you’re into eating (who isn’t?)—there are pumpkin soup, pumpkin pie, pumpkin bread and pumpkin scones.  Every culinary magic has been done to pumpkin from frying them up as fritters to mashing them to make pasta. In the colonial days, pumpkin was used to make pie crust, not the filling. 

Then, there is the medicinal aspect of it. It was once used to treat freckles and snake bites. It was also reported that dried pieces of pumpkin were ingeniously put together to make floor mats. Wow—people can get creative. 

What makes pumpkin so special? This fall vegetable is quite a celebrity in the world of vegetables. It may not look quite a star, but it has no lack of nutritional star quality.

First, the color is a giveaway. The bright orange color is indicative of the presence of beta-carotene, a carotenoid that gets converted to vitamin A in the body. Beta-carotene is a powerful antioxidant. Meaning? It keeps the damaging free radicals from wrecking cellular damage and triggering off various forms of cancer and degenerative diseases such as macular degeneration and Alzheimer’s disease. Current research also shows that beta-carotene offers protection against cardiovascular diseases. 

That’s the most obvious fact about pumpkin. However, it is not a one-trick vegetable. It has other nutrients that boost health. It is has iron to build strong blood, zinc for proper growth and maintenance, potassium for the proper functioning of cells, tissues and organs and fiber. 

If you’re looking for ways to enjoy pumpkin, consider the following:

Use in Culinary Preparation
Put them in soups, roast them and toss them in salads, puree them and put them in pies, bread or muffins. Pare away the hard exterior and slice them up—fry them in tempuras, sautee them with pieces of meat, bake them or grill. My mother used to cut pumpkin into cubes and cook them with a little brown sugar for a sweet dessert. 

Beauty Purposes
Pumpkin moisturizers, pumpkin mask and beauty products with pumpkin are rather common these days. You can make your own beauty aid with freshly pureed pumpkin. Add a little honey, milk or yogurt—they’re all skin enhancers. 

Pumpkin Seeds
Don’t discard seeds—they’re actually very nutritious. They are high in essential fatty acids, vitamin E and A. When you scoop out the seeds, wash out stingy slimy part, toss with olive oil and a little salt (if desired) and roast at 350 degree Fahrenheit for approximately 15 minutes. 

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