Pumpkin is technically a squash and is a member of the cucurbits family which includes squash and cucumbers. It is not yet clear as to where pumpkin seed originated. Though the seeds have been found in present day Mexico and dates back to more than 7000 years. Pumpkins were integral parts of the Aztec and Mayan diets and were also staple for native Americans. Pumpkins are also credited with keeping New England settlers alive when they failed to grow wheat and corn. Centuries later, Irish Immigrants would start a new pumpkin tradition, carving jack-o lanterns.
Pumpkin bread, pumpkin pie, pumpkin ravioli, pumpkin soup, pumpkin mash- the options are endless to savour this humble yet delicious squash. It’s finally the pumpkin season and the reasons to celebrate are many. Not only is fall’s signature squash versatile enough to fit into all the above and more, it also asks some powerful healthy benefits- like providing you and nutritious diet, keeping your heart healthy, vision and waistline in check.
Talking about the nutritional aspect of pumpkin - a cup of cooked mashed pumpkin contains more than 200 percent of your recommended daily intake of vitamin A which aids vision in dim light. You may have also guessed that pumpkins are rich in carotenoids due to their bright orange color. Pumpkin is an often overlooked source of fiber, but the three grams per cup serving and only 49 calories will keep you feeling fuller for a longer time while adding only few calories on board. A fiber rich diet helps you to eat less and thereby shed weight.
Not only the pumpkin has so many health benefits associated with it, but it tastes so good when prepared well. Pumpkin seeds are naturally helpful to reduce the bad cholesterol. The seeds are also rich in amino acids which are beneficial for our overall well being. Pumpkin also boasts the antioxidant beta carotene which may play a role in cancer prevention.
There are mainly two varieties of pumpkin based on their intended use. The ornamental pumpkins also called the halloween pumpkins are mostly visible. They are round, bright orange, large sized smooth pumpkins and are typically carved for halloween or used as decoration. The second type is the processing pumpkin, which is dark, beige in color, oblong and flavorful. These are used in the processing plants where pumpkin flesh is canned and shipped to super markets, which sells it for pie making and other pumpkin related culinary use. This variety is to be used for all your recipes.
The natural energy diet
I am sure you must have heard about banana being touted as the natural energy fruit containing 422 milligram potassium per cup. Whereas a cooked cup of pumpkin has 564 milligram of potassium. Potassium helps restore the electrolyte level in the body after work out and keeps the muscles functioning at their best.
I was never fond of consuming pumpkin in my diet and kind of avoided it all the time even without tasting it. It is only when I started my culinary journey and came across this squash and I must say the results were delicious. The first dish that I made with pumpkin was the soup, so I would like to share a pumpkin soup recipe with all my readers so that they also can shed their inhibitions about it and start enjoying and reap its health benefits too.
Every year in United States there are numerous pumpkin shows where farmers display their produce and compete against each other in the biggest, heaviest, unique, pumpkin carving and other such categories. These farmers market and shows is the ideal place to grab one for yourself. Illinois is the largest pumpkin producing state in United States due to its perfect climatic conditions, soil and water. A lot of pumpkin processing plants are also in and around the ares which again motivates the farmers to grow it.
Pumpkin coconut soup
Pumpkin 500 gm
Vegetable stock 500 ml
Unsalted butter 2 tbsp
Olive oil 2 tbsp
Ginger chopped 1 inch cube
Maple syrup 1 tbsp
Coconut mlk 1/2 cup
Nutmeg powder a pinch
Salt to taste
Black pepper to taste
Heavy cream 1/2 cup
Almond slices to garnish
Cut the pumpkin into two or three pieces, scoop out the seeds
Rub olive oil in the skin and pulp and roast in a pre heated oven at 300 degree Fahrenheit
Roast until slightly shriveled and soft
Allow to cool and scoop out the pulp and keep aside in a bowl
In a stock pot heat some butter and sauce chopped garlic
Add the pumpkin mash and stock and maple syrup and simmer over slow flame
Blend the soup using a hand blender or food processor until smooth
Return to flame and adjust seasoning and finish with coconut milk and heavy cream
Garnish with sliced almonds and serve hot with choice of bread or bread sticks
Note: Take care while blending hot soup. Allow the soup to cool down before you blend to avoid any injury.
* Chef Tarun Kapoor, Culinary Mastermind, USA. He may be contacted at [email protected]
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