My favorite autumn food ingredient is by far is the pumpkin. As a matter of fact, there is just something about all types of winter squash (acorn, butternut, banana, delicate, hubbard, Kabocha, etc.) that I find comforting and delicious. After all, these yellow and orange hued members of the cucurbitaceae family (includes cucumbers, melons & gourds) are commonly seasoned with the warm pungent spices that I so enjoy such as; allspice, cardamom, chili powder, cinnamon, cloves, cumin, coriander, curry and nutmeg. And when cooked, the hard flesh of winter squash transforms into a soft and buttery texture which tastes almost creamy with subtle hints of a natural sweetness and caramelized nuts. There is just something earthy about the flavor of cooked winter squash that I find very enticing.
So starting around Halloween time, and because these members of the gourd family are best in flavor when they are harvested after the first frost, I begin to cook many dishes that feature them. Pumpkin pie, butternut squash ravioli, pumpkin pancakes, spiced pumpkin seeds, pumpkin & chilies mole, pumpkin-lentil curry, pumpkin gnocchi, pumpkin vinaigrette, pumpkin soup, stuffed acorn squash, pumpkin cookies, pumpkin soufflé, and pumpkin & cornmeal blintz are just some of my favorite winter squash recipes.
But my favorite squash of all – the pumpkin, is not only delicious, it is well documented to have substantial medicinal properties such as, nutritional, dermatological, anti-diabetic, anti-oxidant, anti-carcinogenic and anti-inflammatory benefits. The flowers, fruits, leaves, seeds and oil of the pumpkin are all edible. The flesh is rich in anti-oxidants, vitamins, minerals, and beta-carotene. Bata-carotene is converted by the body into vitamin A, which helps boost bodily regeneration and can thereby help slow down the aging process. Pumpkin can be found in many anti-wrinkle facial creams and beauty products. And studies show that consuming pumpkin seed oil improves HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol) in postmenopausal women.
The seeds of pumpkins, however, are claimed to be of particular therapeutic health benefit. Among many things, it is shown that eating pumpkin seeds helps to clean blood vessels and positively affect serum cholesterol content as well as stimulate kidney function. They contain phytosterols, which can help lower bad LDL cholesterol and can help prevent against many cancers. They also contain L-tryptophan which can help fight depression. Pumpkin seeds are anti-inflammatory and by eating them you can reduce inflammation without experiencing the stomach irritating side effects of taking NSAID drugs such as aspirin. They are also said to be helpful in combating difficult urination due to an enlarged prostate. Furthermore, they contain Omega 3 and mono-unsaturated fatty acids which are believed to be so beneficial in preventing the health related diseases associated with eating today’s highly-processed foods.
So, eat your pumpkin – it’s not just for Jack-o-Lanterns anymore!
Here is a Halloween-time pumpkin dessert recipe for you to try. I make the little pumpkin toothpick frills by printing out a graphic on my PC and then I cut and tape them to toothpicks – it works for many a different occasion and any treat or cupcake you can imagine.
Halloween Themed Pumpkin Bars Recipe
Here are some other Pumpkin blogs and recipes you may enjoy:
- Chef Kelly’s Pumpkin Cookie Cutter Dough Recipe
- Chef Kelly’s Perfect Pumpkin Pie
- Pumpkin Butter and Pumpkin Pie Spice in Host Gifts
- Chef Stuart’s Pumpkin Curry Soup