The old nursery rhyme comes to mind at this time of year:
Peter, Peter, pumpkin eater!
Had a wife and couldn’t keep her.
So he put her in a pumpkin shell,
And there he kept her, very well.
I used to think this rhyme came from Britain where most of our nursery rhymes seem to originate. However, in my research, I learned pumpkins really are not very well known or utilized in the U.K. In fact, one of my Brit friends said she’s familiar with pumpkin seeds and pumpkin soup, but for pies and casseroles as we have here in the U.S., not so much.
Our beloved pumpkins are part of the gourd family, and have been in North America for at least 5,000 years. They can be used as food in everything from soups to breads to desserts, but they are also used for décor during the autumn season. Did you know that the popular jack-o’-lantern we love at Halloween originated in Ireland, but it wasn’t until the Irish moved to America and discovered pumpkins that these grinning, candle-lit lanterns were created. Before then, our Irish ancestors carved jack-o’-lanterns from turnips, and even potatoes.
Native Americans used to cut strips of pumpkin, which they then pounded flat. Once the strips were dried, they were used for weaving.
Pumpkin blossoms are often dipped in batter and fried as a delicious snack.
Besides being such a versatile food, pumpkins exude a lot of nutritional value. They are low in calories, fat and sodium. Their high fiber content is beneficial for overall health. The seeds and the seed oil provide a great source for zinc and unsaturated fatty acids. They also contain plenty of vitamins A and B, potassium, protein and iron.
If you decide you want to buy a pumpkin and make pies or casseroles from it, here are a few tips to remember before purchasing.
• The stem should be intact
• Smaller pumpkins have more tender, flavorful flesh
• It should feel heavy for its size
• The color should be completely orange
• Check for soft spots, cracks or splits.
• Look for holes where insects might have been
Everyone has a favorite pumpkin pie recipe (usually the one Grandma always favored).
I won’t offer a variation of the popular old standard. However, many of us are mindful of our waistlines, especially as the holiday season approaches, and lingers. If you love pumpkin pie, but prefer to keep an eye on the calories, here’s a great recipe that’s simple and very tasty:
Low-Cal Pumpkin Pie
2 cups cooked and mashed pumpkin, or canned
1 package sugar-free instant vanilla pudding
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice (or spiced to your taste)
12 oz low-fat whipped topping
Mix the first three ingredients with ½ of the whipped topping, and place in a cooked, cooled crust or in a graham cracker crust. Top with the remainder of whipped topping and refrigerate.
For more information about the history, the use, the cooking or carving of pumpkins, here are some great websites: www.pumpkinnook.com www.About.Com www.history.com
Or, do your own Goggle search for more great ways to use our wonderful pumpkins!
Do you have your own favorite pumpkin-based recipe?