We may be a few months out from Fall and Halloween still, and by a few months I mean half a year of course, but I suddenly got the urge for some pumpkin. Not only are they fun to use for crafts, they can be used to make delicious food that’s a bit tempting to put in everything. I’ve actually learned that pumpkin can be used in foods you wouldn’t normally have suspected, but I’m getting ahead of myself here. Before I go too far, let’s start from the beginning and check out today’s nutrition facts article on the great pumpkin!
Pumpkin Culture and History
We tend to think of pumpkins most frequently when it comes to Colonial America and the first thanksgiving and all that jazz, and you wouldn’t be too far off. Well, you’d still be off, but not as badly as you could be. Pumpkins, while not having a definite place of origin, are thought to have come from Central or North America, though seeds from plants very similar to pumpkins have been found in Mexico that date back to roughly 5500 BC, making them predate the Colonialists by a few years, give or take.
Most historical records start taking notice of pumpkins during the Colonial days, as you’d expect, since that was the first time all the big record-keeping civilizations started taking notes involving the New World across the Atlantic. The Native Americans clearly knew all about pumpkins and their many uses, showing settlers the glory of the gourd. These days we mostly just go ahead and make Thanksgiving all about pumpkin pie though. No, stop, we’re not debating whether pumpkins were really involved in the mythical “First thanksgiving” as it seems like none of what we picture happening at that meal actually happened, assuming it happened at all. We still celebrate it now with pumpkins, so bam, pumpkins are synonymous with Thanksgiving.
And naturally, we couldn’t talk about pumpkins without looking to Halloween, the day where pumpkins get their just honors. The jack-o-lantern began life in Celtic tradition for All Hallow’s Eve, which we’d just rename Halloween because that’s how we typically roll. Strangely, since pumpkins are an American thing, the Celtic people of Ireland would carve turnips and rutabagas instead, which just doesn’t have the same sort of feel when you think about it.
Beyond carving them, pumpkins get a lot of use as ballistic produce. Odd to use a phrase like that, but pumpkins are one of the most preferred ammunition types in competitions that involve catapults, trebuchets, air cannons, and everything in between. My guess is that it’s because pumpkins make a good satisfying explosion when they hit the ground, something only matched by the watermelon in pure enjoyment.
It really is amazing how much traction pumpkins have in culture with towns across the nation holding pumpkin-related festivals and competitions for the aforementioned pumpkin chucking events or pumpkin recipes or pumpkin growing or what have you. And beyond the real world, pumpkins are everywhere in fiction, like the Great Pumpkin that Linus from Peanuts is sure exists or Jack Skellington, “the Pumpkin King” from The Nightmare Before Christmas. Long story short, pumpkins are definitely here to stay.
Health Benefits of Pumpkins
So then, if pumpkins are so great, what’re the chances that they have any nutritional value whatsoever? As you’d guess, the chance is very high. While being rather low in calories, pumpkins are also high in vitamins, specifically vitamins A, C, and E. So you could say the pumpkin is the ACE vegetable! Eh? Eh? Aw, you’re no fun.
Looking at them a bit more deeply, we discover the B vitamins such as folates, niacin, thiamin, and pantothenic acid, and we all know what those do! Uh…they do…good things…? Yes, they do good things as I’ve yet to hear of a B vitamin that damages the body. Add in liberal amounts of copper, calcium, potassium, and phosphorus and you’ve got one healthy gourd sitting there, smiling at you with its poor dental hygiene and backlit appearance.
Finally, we have to mention the anti-oxidants as those are a requirement of pretty much every piece of produce you can find. Why so many fruits and vegetables have gotten together and decided to be against oxidants is entirely beyond my comprehension, but pumpkins are among the ranks. And by the way, that vitamin A content in pumpkins? Insanely high. As in 246% of the recommended daily amount. Naturally, this means that pumpkins are useful in protecting against lung and oral cancer, so hooray for that!
Eating More Pumpkins
Some people don’t need a moment to even think about how to eat more pumpkin as they’re already mixing up some batter for pumpkin scones or baking a pumpkin pie as we speak (if you’re baking a pumpkin pie right now, I demand you hand it over posthaste). Essentially, anything that can be baked can be baked with pumpkins, so cookies, brownies, fudge, cakes, pies, bread, scones, muffins, cupcakes, tarts, donuts, bagels, waffles, pancakes, and even chips. At least, I think you can make pumpkin chips… Yup, upon closer inspection it appears that making chips out of pumpkins is insanely easy to do. Fact!
If you’re not up for some baked goods and want something a bit different, you can easily go the heart soup route, or try something bold with pumpkin chili. My wife even made some sort of chili/soup/stew thing that’s baked inside a small pumpkin. It was a heck of a meal, albeit a strange once as it felt weird eating right out of a pumpkin like it was a bowl. But hey, whatever works!
Were I to select one pumpkin-based recipe that I value above all others, excluding the obvious pumpkin pie of course, I’d have to say I’m an immense fan of pumpkin seeds, though we already did an article on those so I needn’t go any further. I’ll just leave it at “pumpkins are great” since that’s about as far as anyone usually needs to go.
I could easily keep yammering on about all the fun times I’ve ever had with pumpkins but that would just take away time that could be spent hearing your favorite pumpkin recipes and activities. What do you love most about pumpkins? And do you have any fantastic recipes you’d like to share? C’mon, let’s treat this like Thanksgiving and go ahead and share with one another! Yay community!