Pumpkins: A Gift Of Health Year Around
Pumpkins, are they only for the fall? Join us as we discover the amazing benefits of regular use of this amazing bright orange fruit. All over the world they hit the markets each fall, but what are they for? Are they only for pie?
The bright orange color of the display of pumpkins at the local market is a dead giveaway that they are special. The pumpkin is loaded with an important antioxidant, beta-carotene. What a gift to the human body! Beta-carotene works in our bodies and converts into Vitamin A. This is excellent for your vision. During this conversion process it does wonders for your overall health and well-being. Current research is showing that this humble fruit could offer protection from several types of cancer. That alone makes it worthwhile! It also offers protection for the heart and helps in the prevention of heart disease. It also helps to lower blood pressure. Beta-carotene offers protection against other diseases as well. It is also a leader in the prevention of some degenerative aspects of aging. Research is early but what we are seeing makes it a more than worthwhile addition to our diet.
Following is a simple chart on the different nutrients found in 1 Cup of cooked pumpkin: (Taken from the University of Illinois Extension Service.)
Pumpkin Nutrition Facts
(1 cup cooked, boiled, drained, without salt)
Calories 49 Magnesium 22 mg Folate 21 mcg
Protein 2 grams Potassium 564 mg Vitamin A 2650 IU
Carbohydrates 12 grams Zinc 1 mg Vitamin E3 mg
Dietary Fiber 3 gr Selenium .50 mg
Calcium 37 mg Vitamin C 12 mg
Iron 1.4 mg Niacin 1 mg
So what are some of the amazing facts about this member of the melon family? We already know it makes good pie and bread. Pumpkin seeds can be roasted on very low heat or in the sun and eaten. They are crunchy and delicious. Be sure to eat the whole seed for maximum nutrition. The inner seed is loaded with Zinc. Whole roasted, un-shelled pumpkin seeds contain about 10 milligrams of zinc per 3.5 ounces. If you choose to buy the kernels or the shelled organic seeds, they have about 7-8 milligrams. No matter which you do, you will add zinc to your body
Pumpkin flowers are edible. They are a delicious addition to your salads. The pumpkin puree itself is excellent added to soups. I add it when making vegetable soups instead of tomato sauce. It is one of my standard things to dry and then you can add the dried pieces to soup when you make it. Drying is better than canning for nutrition. I do both canned and dried of this melon and also tomatoes. Mainly I used the canned puree for pies and breads. The dried I mainly use in soups.
Native Americans called pumpkins "isqoutm squash." The Native Americans used pumpkin seeds for food and medicine. It seems they were way ahead of us on nutrition. In colonial times, Native Americans roasted long strips of pumpkin in an open fire. This they ate like a snack. So much better than the junk food you find at the coroner store. They would also flattened some of the strips of pumpkins, dry them and made mats. Nothing much went to waste. Colonists sliced off the pumpkin tops; removed seeds and filled the insides with milk, spices and honey. This was baked in hot ashes and is the origin of pumpkin pie. What a simple and easy dessert. Another fun way is to slice off the top; remove the seeds for later use, add coconut milk, spices, and honey and bake in a sun oven for several hours. It is delicious! It is easy!
Pumpkins are a warm weather crop and easy to grow. They are a melon, so plant in hills. You can also grow in pots. One plant to one large pot. They can be planted after the last frost. Usually they are planted in May and as late as July. In Florida you can plant all year-long. So make sure that you plant several and space like watermelon. They grow big.
Now we know that pumpkins are used to make pumpkin butter, pies, custard, bread, cookies, soup, and the seeds for snacks. So enjoy pumpkin in its many forms on a regular basis year around. You will be healthy, eat less, and sleep good. It is never wrong to use pumpkin! Enjoy! The nutrition is a free gift!