Food and Nutrition: Pumpkins unlimited in their possibilities
Posted: 10/08/2012 at 1:15 am
Food & Nutrition
There is no doubt about it, fall has arrived. It appears to be a very good year for pumpkins. The last several years I have noticed very thick, heavy stems on the pumpkins; not sure why but it makes for a great lid when making a Halloween decoration. The pumpkin is one of those foods that has unlimited possibilities.
The pumpkin is among the most celebrated of foods. This fruit of the vine, marketed as a vegetable, is rich with legend and lore. There are mythical mentions of pumpkins in fairy tales, short stories and rhymes. Remember Cinderella was chauffeured to the ball in a pumpkin turned coach. The horseman in “The Legend of Sleeping Hollow” used a pumpkin propped under his arm as proof of headless condition. And then there was “Peter, Peter Pumpkin Eater” of the celebrated Mother Goose rhyme.
Pumpkin has also been held in high esteem in many cultures. In ancient China the pumpkin was a symbol of success and wealth. Here in the United States, pumpkin played a starring role in the first Thanksgiving celebration, and to this day it remains a main attraction of the traditional family meal for dessert.
The Halloween practice of carving jack-o’-lanterns is actually an old English custom. Pumpkins were carved so that the eerie light cast by these hollowed, lighted pumpkins would ward off evil spirits. The jack-o’-lantern’s name was derived from “Jack with a Lanthorn,” the nickname for an imaginary light that hovered over swamps misleading unwary travelers.
Pumpkin is an excellent source of many nutrients with irresistible aroma, flavor and texture. Pumpkin is rich in vitamin A, contains iron, potassium and vitamin C, plus many other necessary nutrients. Some bonuses are that pumpkin is low in calories, sodium and fat and high in fiber. Freshly baked pumpkin dishes are full of flavor.
Solid-pack commercially canned pumpkin is completely natural and as close to home-grown as possible. Two types of pumpkin are canned commercially, plain pumpkin that has nothing added to it and pumpkin pie mix that has flavorings, sugar, etc., added. One cup of plain pumpkin contains 80 calories, 2 grams of protein, 20 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fat, 10 milligrams of salt and 470 milligrams of potassium.
Baking with pumpkin during the holiday season evolved because it closely followed the harvest time when pumpkins were available. In years past, pumpkin was less commonly used during the rest of the year, not for lack of popularity, but because it was considered a “seasonal” product. I enjoy pumpkin and the many foods that I can prepare with it so I use it all year long.
Today commercially canned pumpkin should not be limited to pie; try quick breads, cakes, pancakes, waffles, muffins, main dishes or chilled desserts.
Pumpkin pie can be made without the crust and eliminating the crust is a calorie saver. Visit the Purdue Elkhart County office website for an excellent diabetic pumpkin pie recipe: www3.ag.purdue.edu/counties/elkhart/Pages/WeeklyFoodNutritionColumn.aspx.
Mary Ann Lienhart-Cross is an Extension educator in consumer family science. Write to her at 17746 E. C.R. 34, Goshen, IN 46528; call 533-0554; fax 533-0254; or email email@example.com.