The Power of Pumpkin

A fruit of many facets.

by April Jones

It’s that time of year again. The air begins to shift, the leaves begin to change and people begin to decorate their homes with the beauty of corn stalks, hay stacks, brightly colored mums and pumpkins. I’m not sure when this trend began, but I must confess, it saddens me to see the many pumpkins that line the streets once both Halloween and Thanksgiving have passed. They are tossed to the curb like unwanted debris, not treated like the jewels they are. I find myself relentlessly collecting various varieties that get tossed to the curb and planning my next meal, snack or dessert, depending on the variety. Sometimes my zealousness lends itself to one too many in the root cellar, but I just can’t bear to see the bounty go to waste. I imagine if most of you knew what this incredible food could do for you, you would share the sentiment.

These fall beauties are not only lovely additions to our front porches and table displays but packed full of great vitamins and minerals that can boost our immune systems. It’s a shame these orange orbs aren’t available beyond the holidays, other than in cans, for much can be gleamed from the fruit. I hope that by the time I share with you the many attributes of these bad boys, you will find yourself with additional uses and quantities for your own home. Let’s first start with what pumpkins actually are. These winter fruits, and yes, they are fruits, are native to North America and are a member of the squash family. The ones most often seen here are of the Connecticut Field variety. You will most often hear them referred to as gourds or gourd-like squash.

Now get ready to be blown away by the power of pumpkin! Most parts of the plants are edible. You can ingest the shell, the flesh, the seeds, the leaves and even the flowers. The flesh of pumpkins is super-charged with cancer-fighting chemicals, rich in Vitamin C and high in fiber. If you are looking for the highest amount of carotenoids (which studies suggest prevent various forms of cancer, in particular colon cancer, and heart disease), then select orange pumpkins. The seeds of the pumpkin have been reported to be higher in iron than any other seed and are a natural source of protein. They are a substantial source of both Omega three and six fatty acids; promote healthy skin; help regulate blood-sugar levels; affect the health of the prostate; naturally reduce cholesterol; assist with blood clotting, digestion and nerve function; and fight parasites! As if that isn’t enough, they are also rich in B-vitamins and other minerals, including selenium and zinc. Veterinarians have been known to recommend pumpkin as a dietary supplement for dogs and cats experiencing various digestive ailments, due to its high fiber content, which aids in proper digestion. Now, if this can help your animals’ digestion, don’t you think it can help yours?

These amazing fruits are ripe right when nature intended. They are prime for the pickin’ at a time when our bodies are in great need of immune-enhancing minerals and vitamins, and do they ever deliver! Get creative beyond bread and roasting the seeds. There are many ways to prepare pumpkin: soups, salads, smoothies and even casseroles. They can be boiled, steamed, roasted, baked and even sautéed. And you don’t have to eat only the orange ones. The white ones are often used for baking, due to their creamier consistency, but you can also eat them green like a squash or zucchini. The flowers make a lovely garnish, and the shell itself can be used as a bowl for punch or soup.  Now, if that doesn’t inspire you to expand your horizons, then you may just need to keep out of the patch!  I hope you will begin to find a new appreciation and approach to this amazing healing food. And here you thought all they were good for were Jack O’Lanterns and fall displays.

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