It is pumpkin time again! And, this is the only time of the year when many think about the king of squash.
“Early American colonists chanted whenever they were overcome with appreciation for this oversize orange squash. Pumpkin was a popular food back then, and the early settlers ate a peck of it in pumpkin soup, pumpkin pie, and even pumpkin beer.
“It’s a different story now. … If we actually eat pumpkin at all, it’s mainly in Thanksgiving and Christmas pies.
“It’s not just due to its size that pumpkin is called the king of squash. A half-cup of canned pumpkin has more than 16 milligrams of beta-carotene, 160 to 260 percent of the daily amount recommended by experts. Pumpkin is also a source of lesser-known carotenoids such as lutein and zeaxanthin.
“Carotenoids, which create the orange color of pumpkin, help protect the body by neutralizing harmful oxygen molecules known as free radicals. ‘Lutein and zeaxanthin are very potent free radical scavengers,’ says Paul Lachance, Ph.D., professor of nutrition and chairman of the department of food science at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey. A diet high in antioxidants can help prevent many of the diseases associated with aging, including heart disease and cancer.
“Lutein and zeaxanthin aren’t found only in pumpkin; they are also found in the lenses of the eyes. Studies suggest that eating foods high in these compounds may help block the formation of cataracts.
The Whole Picture
“In addition to its rich stores of beta-carotene and other phytonutrients, pumpkin contains generous amounts of fiber. For example, while 1 cup of cornflakes contains 1 gram of fiber, a half-cup of canned pumpkin contains more than 3 grams, 6 percent of the Daily Value.
“Iron is another pumpkin mainstay. A half-cup of pumpkin provides almost 2 mg of iron, about 20 percent of the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) for men and 13 percent of the RDA for women. …
“Even richer in iron than the flesh are the pumpkin’s seeds. One ounce—which consists of about 140 seeds, a huge handful—contains about 4 mg of iron, about 40% of the RDA for men and 27% of the RDA for women. …
“When you have a taste for a crunchy, highly nutritious snack, pumpkin seeds, in moderation, are a good choice.” Excerpts from: The Doctors Book of Food Remedies, Selene Yeager and Editors of Prevention Health Books, 1998 Rodale Inc., 458-460.
Easy Pumpkin Puree
|Choose the lighter colored “pie pumpkins” or “sugar pumpkins.” They are sweeter and less watery than the orange jack-o’-lantern pumpkins.|
|· Cut the top from the pumpkin and scrape out the stringy membranes and seeds.
· Cut the pumpkin into large pieces and place in a roasting pan.
· Pour ½ cup water into the bottom of the pan and cover with foil.
· Bake 45-60 minutes or until pumpkin is soft and easily pierced with a fork.
· Scrape the soft pulp from the skin into a food processor or blender and puree.
· Use for pie filling, puddings or cookies.
Leftover pumpkin puree may be frozen in an airtight container for up to 12 months