Written by: Paul Hodges, General Manger, O2 Fitness Brennan
Did you know......pumpkins have been grown in America for over 5,000 years?
Did You Know…that pumpkin is chock full of vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants?
Did You Know…that pie is not the only way to cook pumpkin?
There are a lot of things you probably didn't know about this gourd-like squash, but we often confuse this crop as being a vegetable. Pumpkin is actually a fruit, often associated to the vegetable food group, that is almost emblematic of fall- made famous by the Halloween and Thanksgiving holidays. And yet, the only way it usually gets to the table is in a store-bought pie, or perhaps a can of pie filling that goes in a pie we made ourselves. But pumpkin can be so much more -- and since pumpkin keeps for 6 months whole or for years in a can, it can be a year-round addition to our diets.
Pumpkin is chock full ‘o goodness. You can tell by its bright color that it’s going to be going to be good for you. Not only is pumpkin loaded with vitamin A and antioxidant carotenoids, particularly alpha and beta-carotenes, it’s a good source of vitamins C, K, and E, and lots of minerals, including magnesium, potassium, and iron.
It's full of fiber. Half a cup of canned pumpkin has 6.5 grams of the effective carbohydrate and 3.5 grams of fiber.
Pumpkin seeds are filled with nutritious minerals. The seeds are also worth latching on to. Pumpkin seeds are loaded with minerals, seem to have an anti-inflammatory effect, and may even help protect against prostate cancer and osteoporosis. A quarter cup has about 5 grams of effective carbs and 1.5 grams of fiber. Pumpkin seeds can be easily prepared by placing them on a sheet of aluminum foil, tossed in olive oil and salt and Cajun seasoning, baked in a 300 degree F oven for 30-35 minutes.
Cooking a Pumpkin
For cooking, you want a pumpkin that is heavy for its size. The lighter ones are drier, with a bigger open space in the middle. For the most part, stay away from the large pumpkins when selecting a pumpkin for eating – 2 to 5 lbs is about right. For a healthy, pumpkin recipe, look no further than this wonderful Pumpkin Apple soup, ideal for those nights when the air is cool and a hot bowl of soup can be a simple, autumn comfort food!
Pumpkin Recipe: "Harvest Pumpkin-Apple Soup"
- 4 pounds of pumpkins, peeled, seeded and cut into 2-inch chunks
- 4 large sweet-tart apples (such as granny smith or empire) cored and cut into eighths
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 1/4 teaspoons salt, divided
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage
- 6 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth or vegetable broth
- 1/3 cup chopped hazelnuts, toasted
- 2 tablespoons hazelnut oil
- Preheat oven to 450°F.
- Toss pumpkin, apples, olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt and pepper in a large bowl. Spread evenly on a large rimmed baking sheet. Roast, stirring once, for 30 minutes. Stir in sage and continue roasting until very tender and starting to brown, 15 to 20 minutes more.
- Transfer about one-third of the pumpkin (or squash) and apples to a blender along with 2 cups broth. Puree until smooth. Transfer to a Dutch oven and repeat for two more batches. Season with the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and heat through over medium-low heat, stirring constantly to prevent splattering, for about 6 minutes. Serve each portion topped with hazelnuts and a drizzle of hazelnut oil.