We are officially deep into pumpkin season, I am sure many of you reading this post have already picked and carved lanterns by now. Each fall season pumpkins tend to get a bad reputation for being purely decorative or simply an artificial latte flavoring. However, pumpkin actually has some wonderful health benefits and should be a food we all incorporate into our fall diets. It is a wonderful colorful addition to our Thanksgiving and Christmas feasts.
The deep orange color of the pumpkin is due to a multitude of phytonutrients and beta-carotene. Beta-carotene is converted to vitamin A within the body and can support the immune system, reduce signs of acne, and promote proper eye function. Additionally, pumpkin is high in vitamin C, vitamin E, and folate, which are all known to aid in immune function as well as improve the appearance of skin, hair, and nails. Pumpkin can easily be sliced and roasted for a delicious side dish. When preparing your pumpkin, be sure to reserve the seeds and toast them for another nutritious treat! Pumpkin seeds are high in zinc, magnesium, and healthy fats. Carving pumpkins have larger shelled seeds, which can easily be toasted, but if you prefer a softer seed, check the grocery store for the small, flat, green seeds, normally called pepitas. You can throw these seeds on a salad or over a warm bowl of chili, either way you will be able to reap the benefits of pumpkin!
When talking about pumpkin, it is hard to not to mention pumpkin spice. This classic fall blend normally consists of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and allspice. This blend may not include any pumpkin, but blends beautifully with the fall squash. Additionally, these spices pack a healthy punch! Cinnamon is a potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant and has also been shown to help manage blood sugar. Nutmeg contains many necessary minerals and B vitamins. Ginger known to be helpful with digestive issues, is also a great source of iron, potassium, and zinc. Lastly, allspice has antioxidant, antiviral, and antiseptic properties, which makes it useful during cold and flu season.
So, this pumpkin season, don’t restrict yourself to simply picking and carving. When choosing a pumpkin to cook be sure to look out for the sugar and cheese varieties. These pumpkins will be smaller than the field variety and have a much sweeter and denser flesh that lends itself to cooking. And don’t forget to roast the seeds!
Roasted Pumpkin Soup– Adapted from MarthaStewart.com
2 ¾ lbs sugar pumpkin, halved and seeded
2 shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and cleaned
½ cup olive oil
5 cups vegetable stock
1 onion, peeled and quartered
1 garlic clove
Coarse salt and ground pepper
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
Cut the pumpkin into 2-inch pieces. Toss pumpkin, onion, mushroom, and garlic with oil and 2 teaspoons of salt. Arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet.
Roast until the pumpkin is tender, roughly 30 minutes. Be sure to rotate pan and toss vegetables halfway through.
Transfer vegetables to a medium saucepan, heat over medium with 2 cups of broth. Blend with an immersion blender until smooth.
Bring to a simmer, then remove from heat. Season with salt and pepper to your liking.
Classic Pumpkin Spice Blend– Adapted from FoodNetwork.com
¼ cup ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons ground ginger
1 tablespoon ground nutmeg
1 tablespoon ground cardamom
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon ground cloves
Combine and store in an airtight container for up to 3 months.
By Charlotte LaGuardia