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The Power of Pumpkin

Pumkins at an Outdoor Market

“I would rather sit on a pumpkin, and have it all to myself, than be crowded on a velvet cushion.”–Henry David Thoreau

To some they are the “orbs” of autumn, the quintessential symbol of fall, making their graceful entry into hearts and homes.  The names, alone, captivate childlike feelings of giddiness; Aladdin, Baby Boo, Cinderella, Cotton Candy, Jack-Be-Little, Jack-Be-Quick, Full Moon and Wee-Be-Little.

Why, then, are we so fascinated with pumpkins?  Consider these facts: * The word pumpkin originated from the Greek word Pepon which means large melon.  The word gradually morphed by the French, English and then Americans into the word “pumpkin”.

Pumpkins and squash are believed to have originated in the ancient Americas. * Early Native Americans roasted pumpkins strips over campfires and used them as a food source, long before the arrival of European explorers.  Pumpkins helped The Native Americans make it through long cold winters.  They used the sweet flesh in numerous ways; roasted, baked parched, boiled and dried.  They ate pumpkin seed and also used them as a medicine.  The blossoms were added to stews.  Dried pumpkin could be stored and ground into flour * Columbus carried pumpkin seeds back with him to Europe. * Indians introduced pumpkins and squashes to the Pilgrims.

Pumpkins were an important food source for the pilgrims, as they stored well, which meant that they would have a nutritious food source during the winter months. *The Pilgrims were also known to make pumpkin beer.  They fermented a combination of persimmons, hops, maple sugar and pumpkin to make this early colonial brew. *In early colonies, pumpkin shells were used as a template for haircuts to ensure a round and uniform finished cut.  As a result of this practice, New Englanders were sometimes nicknamed “pumpkinheads”. An old Pilgrim poem gives testament to the Pilgrims dependence upon pumpkins for food:

“For pottage and puddings and custard and pies

Our pumpkins and parsnips are common supplies,

We have pumpkins at morning and pumpkins at noon,

If it were not for pumpkins we should be undoon”.

Pilgrim verse, circa 1633

During the month of October we will explore some fun and flavorful ways to use pumpkins.  To begin, here’s what Dr. Mercola, a leading health advocate, has to say about pumpkin seeds: 10 Health Benefits of Pumpkin Seeds “With a wide variety of nutrients ranging from magnesium and manganese to copper, protein and zinc, pumpkin seeds are nutritional powerhouses wrapped up in a very small package”. Pumpkins provide:

  •  Heart Healthy Magnesium
  •  Zinc for Immune Support
  •  Plant-Based Omega Fats
  • Prostate Health Cancer-Protective Properties
  •  Anti-Diabetic Effects
  •  Benefits for Postmenopausal Women
  •  Heart and Liver Health  Tryptophan for Restful Sleep
  •  Anti-Inflammatory Benefits

The best way to eat pumpkin seeds is raw – this preserves the healthy fats in the seeds.

Roasted Pumkin Seeds in a Red Bowl If you prefer to eat the seeds roasted use this simple recipe: Roast raw pumpkin seeds on a low heat setting in your oven (no more than 175 degrees F), sprinkled with Himalayan or other natural salt, for about 15-20 minutes.

Sign up for our Harvest Lunch, Outstanding at the Field on October 29th. Instructions Here.

Next week:  Creamy Southwestern Pumpkin Soup


About Dallas Garden Buzz

Dallas County Master Gardeners growing and sharing from The Raincatcher's Garden.

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