Well, you can hardly swing a hobgoblin these days without hitting a pumpkin. Take a drive though any neighborhood, and you’ll find a pile of them in front of groceries, nurseries, and at some charity patches. So why all this fascination with orange gourds? Click here to find out more about the history of Jack O’ Lanterns, and why you associate them with Halloween or All Hallows Eve.
Pumpkins, related to cucumbers, are thought to have originated in America and made its way around the world by way of explorers, and those seeking new homes on shores far away.
“Modern day squash developed from the wild squash that originated in an area between Guatemala and Mexico. While squash has been consumed for over 10,000 years, they were first cultivated specifically for their seeds (seeds are an article for another day ~ FoodsCool) since earlier squash did not contain much flesh, and what they did contain was very bitter and unpalatable. As time progressed, squash cultivation spread throughout the Americas, and varieties with a greater quantity of sweeter-tasting flesh were developed. Christopher Columbus brought squash back to Europe from the New World, and like other native American foods, their cultivation was introduced throughout the world by Portuguese and Spanish explorers. Today, the largest commercial producers of squash include China, Japan, Romania, Turkey, Italy, Egypt, and Argentina.”
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When sorting through all those gourds, consider what you’re going to do with them before making a purchase. If you want to make pies or other sweet/savory foods, steer clear of those big ones and head for the produce shelf where the softball to cantaloupe sized ones are set out. Those big ones are best left for carving and decoration.
If you want to try your hand at making pumpkin pies or other meals from fresh instead of canned, it is pretty easy. You’ll need a dish, microwave, and a fork or skewer. Wash the pumpkin and zap on high for two minutes. Remove from the oven and stab it deeply all over with the skewer or fork – it has to be completely covered with holes. Zap it again for another two to four minutes. Wrap it in foil and let stand for about 5 minutes. Cut it open, remove seeds and scrape out pulp. For more detailed instructions, click here for Carroll Pellegrinelli’s tips.
As far as health benefits go, they are currently being researched for anti-cancer properties, they help support men’s health regarding the prostate, their folate helps reduce the possibility of birth defects, and winter squash also supports the lungs, colon and heart.
They’re also easy to prepare. You can roast the in the oven, zap them in the microwave, steam them, or add peeled chunks to soups and stews. The mild, slightly sweet flesh blends wonderfully in either sweet or savory applications.
Here’s a recipe for non-dairy/no egg pumpkin pie that uses silken tofu instead of regularly used ingredients. For more recipe ideas, click here – and no, they are not all desserts. Do you have a favorite pumpkin recipe?
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