Pumpkins fall under the Winter squash family. They are very versatile and feature in cuisines around the world. They are found in savoury dishes and soups and in sweet desserts like pies, breads, muffins and cakes.
It is best to buy whole pumpkin rather than in sections as they keep their nutritional value better. Once at home, a ripe, mature pumpkin may be stored for many weeks in a cool, well-ventilated place at room temperature. However, cut sections should be placed inside the refrigerator where it can keep well for a few days.
Huffington Post has tells us some facts about this vegetable.
- A cup of cooked, mashed pumpkin contains more than 200 percent of your recommended daily intake of vitamin A, which aids vision, particularly in dim light, according to the National Institutes of Health.
- They are rich in carotenoids, the compounds that give the gourd their bright orange color, including beta-carotene, which the body converts into a form of vitamin A for additional peeper protection.
- The same free-radical-neutralizing powers of the carotenoids in pumpkin that may keep cancer cells at bay can also help keep the skin wrinkle-free, Health magazine reported.
- Pumpkins are a good source of fiber, but with three grams per one-cup serving and only 49 calories, it can keep you feeling full for longer on fewer calories.
A fiber-rich diet seems to help people eat less, and thereby shed pounds. A 2009 study found that people who ate a whole apple before lunch (the fiber is in the skin)consumed fewer calories throughout the meal than people who ate applesauce or drank apple juice, WebMD reported.
- Like their orange comrades the sweet potato, the carrot and the butternut squash (to name a few), pumpkins boast the antioxidant beta-carotene, which may play a role in cancer prevention, according to the National Cancer Institute.
Pumpkins do require some elbow grease and sharp strong knives to cut. This aspect is their biggest drawback. The Japanese variety called “Kabocha” with its softer “skin” is much easier to cut than the brown skin variety featured in the photos here. Kabocha are actually stewed and eaten with their skin on.
FIRST STEP if your recipe calls for shredded, sliced or cubed pumpkin.
Place pumpkin firmly on a thick cutting board. Using the point sharp tip of a strong chef’s knife, press it into the centre of the pumpkin to make a deep slit. The cut a wedge out of the whole pumpkin. Once you have achieved this, it is easier to cut the other wedges. Proceed to cut wedges from the whole pumpkin (see above photo).
STEP 2. Hold each wedge firmly in your hand. With a sharp utility knife or a metal spoon, remove the pulp and seeds. See photo below.
STEP 3. With the same sharp utility knife, slowly and carefully cut away sections of the thick skin, bit by bit.
STEP 4. Once each wedge has been cleaned, cut them into chunks, thinner slices or grate them as your recipe requires.
If your recipe requires mashed pumpkin
Should the pumpkin be small in size like a sugar pumpkin which is commonly sold in Fall in the USA, put it whole into the microwave and cook it at high heat for about 7 to 10 mins to soften the pumpkin for easy cutting and removal of the thick skin and then the flesh for mashing.
A large pumpkin will still require cutting with a sharp strong chef’s knife into 2 halves, then scoop out the seeds and pulp. Put each half pumpkin (cut side down) into a microwaveable dish. Microwave each half on high for 4 to 5 mins or longer (depending on the size of your pumpkin) to cook and soften it. Scoop out the flesh and purée it in a food processor or mash with a potato masher.
I have found that making your own mashed pumpkin for pumpkin pie is worth that extra effort since you will have a pie that has a much better flavour and colour.
RECIPES using pumpkin
1. Japanese Simmered Pumpkin (Click here)
2. A side dish of roasted sliced pumpkin. Excellent with roasted meats. This is so simple to put together – I don’t think a separate post is required. Peel and cut your pumpkin into 1/2 cm by 6 cm slices, season with a small sprinkling of salt, pepper and a small drizzle of olive oil. Place slices on an oiled and lined baking tray and grill them under a medium hot grill in the oven for about 10 to 12 minutes.