Members of the cucurbit (gourd) family, which surprisingly also includes cucumbers and melons, Pumpkins are in season during the winter months and are commonly associated with Halloween.
Pumpkins are rich in vitamin C, which is essential for healthy skin, immunity and iron absorption. Like other vegetables, pumpkins are also a good source of fibre, which is required for good digestion as well as reducing the risk of heart disease, high cholesterol and T2 diabetes. Their high-fibre content also means pumpkins are a low GI food, making them a good starchy option for people looking to lose weight.
The bright orange colour of Pumpkins is down to a plant compound called beta-carotene. This antioxidant is converted into vitamin A within the body, which is required for good eye health, immunity and healthy skin. Studies suggest that beta carotene may also have a protective effect against heart disease and maybe even early onset dementia (although this research is very preliminary).
Pumpkin seeds are also very nutritious with a rich source of healthy fats and minerals such as magnesium. Pumpkin seeds are a great snack for men. They’re also a useful source of beta-sitosterol, a plant sterol that may have a positive influence on prostate health and zinc, a mineral associated with promoting all round men’s health. Beta-sitosterol has also been shown to help lower LDL cholesterol (high levels of which are a risk factor for heart disease).
After carving your favourite ghoulish face into this year’s Halloween pumpkin try and keep the remaining pieces and seeds as they can all be used up in interesting ways to make the most of their nutritional benefits.
Toast the seeds
Pumpkin seeds can be used in many ways such as a nutritious snack or topping for salads, yoghurts and cereals. To prepare the seeds, rinse under clean water to remove the flesh and then pat dry with kitchen paper. Toss in a bowl with a spice of your choice which could be chilli powder, smoked paprika, garam masala or simply a little salt and pepper. Spread the seeds out on a baking tray and roast at 180C for about 20 mins until golden.
Ground the seeds
Another way to use the pumpkin seeds (when roasted) is to ground them down to a powder using a small food processor. You can use the powder as a nutrient booster to add into smoothies or soups.
Make a soup
Pumpkin has a sweet flavour that works well as a base for soups, especially when partnered with other root vegetables such as parsnips and turnips. Pumpkin also handles Asian favours well so try blending with chilli and coconut for a spicy, warming soup.
Make a puree
Pumpkin can be roasted in the oven (180C) with carrots and cumin. Once cooked, transfer the vegetables to a blender with a little butter and blitz into a thick puree to be served with meat or fish.
Bake with it
The sweetness of pumpkins makes them a good vegetable to use in muffin recipes. This also works with carrots, beetroots, courgettes and parsnips. To use, simply remove the skin and grate the flesh.
Inspired to cook up your leftovers this halloween? Try Rob’s pumpkin, garlic and lentil soup.Last modified: June 10, 2021