BY Michelle Mitchum, MPH HHP
Don’t let the season of the jack-o-lantern confuse you into thinking that pumpkins are just a pretty orange ball of vegetation that we use to celebrate Halloween.
Pumpkins have great properties that are vital to healthy living. Oct. 31, affectionately known in America as Halloween, is the only day of the year we celebrate all things “different.” We mark the holiday by dressing in costumes, performing tricks, asking for treats and we turn pumpkins into eloquent jack-o-lanterns.
We design, cut and sculpt the holidays’ signature fruit into elaborate creations of art, but many of us throw away the very best part of the pumpkin, the flesh and the seeds. The pumpkin fruit is actually a form of squash, and is rich in vitamins and antioxidants. The fleshy part of the pumpkin is loaded with fiber, iron, potassium and magnesium. It is also an excellent source of vitamins A, K and C. Vitamin A is important for keeping our eyes healthy and the alpha and beta-carotene found in pumpkins are potent antioxidants that slow the aging process and prevent cancer tumor growth.
Pumpkin seeds are also full of minerals like phosphorus, magnesium, manganese, iron and copper. They are high in zinc, and a good source of vitamins B, K and E. It’s a good source of protein, and has cancer prevention properties.
So the next time you begin to carve your pumpkin with ambitions of creating your absolute best jack-o-lantern, be sure to organize your project, and create a special place for the vitamin richness inside.
Just what do you do with the goodies inside? Here are a few of my favorite pumpkin recipes.
Spicy Pumpkin Seeds:
2 cups of pumpkin seeds
1 tablespoon of crushed garlic
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1 tablespoon of sea salt
1 teaspoon of cayenne pepper
In a bowl, combine the olive oil, sea salt, garlic and pumpkin seeds, and mix until all seeds are coated evenly. Spread the seeds on a cookie sheet covered in tin foil.
Bake in an oven for 20 min at 300 degrees
Remove seeds from oven, sprinkle cayenne pepper, and squeeze lime over the seeds.
Serve warm or store at room temperature. Do not refrigerate.
1 small pumpkin, unpeeled,
1 small red onion (chopped)
1 large carrot (chopped)
1 lb of tomatoes (chopped)
2 teaspoons of crushed garlic
1 cup of water
1 anise seed
1 teaspoon of chili powder
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
4 fresh basil leaves
1 cup roasted, unsalted peanuts
1. Pour water into small pot and wash the pumpkin and cut it in half with a large, firm chef’s knife.
2. Place the cut side down on a cutting board and cut the squash pumpkin into medium cubes.
3. Steam about 8 to 10 minutes or until the pumpkin is tender but still firm. Set the cubes aside.
4. Mince the onions and carrot in the food processor and place them in a large, deep skillet.
5. Slice the tomatoes, and add them to pot of boiling water. Add all ingredients except the pumpkin and unsalted peanuts. Cook and stir over medium heat for 20 minutes.
6. Add the steamed pumpkin and the roasted peanuts, and heat gently to combine the flavors.