We all know pumpkins to be the emblem of Fall. It is the symbol of Halloween and pumpkin pie is the traditional dessert of Thanksgiving in the United States and Canada. Some of you may think that just because the United States seems to be the only country celebrating the “commercialized” Halloween that we are the ones who invented it. Well you would be sorely disappointed! Long before we were carving up jack-o-lanterns in American the Brits and Irish were carving lanterns out of turnips at Halloween. The early British settlers to the United Sates brought this tradition with them but instead of using turnips they used the local squash that was native to this land…pumpkins.
In some countries the name “pumpkin” does not just referred to the round orange fruit we all know and love. In countries such as England, Australia and New Zealand pumpkin refers to all types of winter squash. This is something to be aware of the next time you find yourself trying to celebrate Thanksgiving in an English colony. Oh and also be aware that they do not celebrate Thanksgiving either.
One more fun fact about pumpkin is that it can also be a tummy settler for dogs and cats. The next time your pet is experiencing constipation, diarrhea, hairballs and other issues alike simply give them some canned pumpkin. The fiber content in the pumpkin helps to sooth their tummies and return things to normal.
Varieties: There are countless amounts of pumpkin varieties in the world. They vary in size from tiny ones that fit in the palm of your hand to humungous ones that are the size of a human. Pumpkins also vary in color from the traditional orange to yellow, green, white, red and so on. They vary by purpose, some are used for cooking whereas others are grown specifically for carving at Halloween or just for decoration.
Season: Pumpkins are of course in season in the fall. They are the fruit mascot of the fall and are typically in season from September through March. Thanks to Halloween and Thanksgiving it is nearly impossible to not find pumpkins in every grocery store and farmers’ market in the United States.
Heath Benefits: Pumpkins are considered one of the best known sources of beta-carotene in existence. Beta-carotene turns into vitamin A when it is digested and has countless health benefits including reduced risk of cancer and heart disease. High levels of vitamin A along with fiber and potassium are known to help our bodies maintain a healthy blood pressure, reduce risk of kidney stones and give us better eye health. Vitamin A along with iron are known to improve fertility and lactation during pregnancy while vitamin C protects our immune system.
Nutrients: Contains vitamins A, B, C, E and K as well as calcium, magnesium, zinc, iron, sodium, potassium and phosphorus. One cup of cooked pumpkin is 49 calories.
How to store them: If you plan to purchase pumpkins for cooking be sure to select small ones (they are bred for this purpose). Look for ones that have a dull, matt finish on the skin and are heavy for their size. Make sure to select ones that still have their stems attached and are free from blemishes and damage. Store your pumpkin in a cool dark dry place for up to one month or in the fridge for up to three months.
As a word of advice, if you do decided to purchase pumpkin in a can from the grocery store be sure to purchase “canned pumpkin” and not the “canned pumpkin pie mix” which is filled with unnecessary sugars and syrups.