In praise of pumpkins

“For pottage and puddings and custards 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

Surely the Pilgrims gave great praise and thanksgiving for pumpkins! In a harsh new land, they were challenged by their unfamiliar surroundings, and were no doubt, deeply grateful for the friendship and support of the Native Americans, who introduced them to sustaining food sources such as pumpkins and squash.

While we appreciate pumpkin today for its culinary capabilities and decorative delights, the Native Americans were deeply dependent on pumpkin as a food and medicinal resource. Pumpkins and squash stored well and provided necessary nourishment during the harsh winter months. Pumpkin strips could be roasted over campfires, the flesh boiled for stews, and dried pumpkins were ground into flour. Nothing was wasted, as the dried shells could also be utilized as bowls and containers to store grain, beans and seeds.

The Pilgrims survived on what was readily available and their gratitude must have been monumental.

The tradition of expressing gratitude for the food on our table, the farmers who toil to provide that food and for family who share in our daily bread continues on every November, when we celebrate Thanksgiving.

In modern kitchens, the pumpkin has evolved into an ingredient that can be considered quite elegant. Its sweetness and bright color adds a twist to classic recipes such as tiramisu, cheesecakes, bar cookies, tea breads, cakes, waffles, pancakes, puddings, ice  cream, scones and even creamy cocktails. Pumpkin is sensational in savory dishes as well, such as silky soups, stews, risotto, lasagna, ravioli, and spicy snacks like pumpkin-chipotle hummus. Pumpkin has never been more popular, and its distinct flavor is popping up in all manner of products, including crackers, cream cheese, coffee and even dog treats!

Adding more pumpkin to your diet is as easy as stirring pure canned pumpkin into oatmeal, yogurt or smoothies. Roasting fresh pumpkin cubes will yield tender, caramelized bites that make a delicious side dish, or are marvelous added to a kale salad. Sugar Pumpkins and Cinderella Pumpkins are two cooking varieties that are readily available in local farm markets.

Pumpkin is a vibrant source of vitamin C, which can provide serious support to the immune system. Possessing more potassium than bananas, pumpkin can easily be considered nature’s energy bar. Eating pumpkin after a vigorous workout will help restore the body’s electrolytes and keep muscles functioning at their best. Full of fiber, pumpkin is satisfying and filling, with only 49 calories per cup. The beta-carotene content gives pumpkins their glorious orange color, and converts to vitamin A in the body, which may help to keep vision sharp, especially in dim light.

Give praise for pumpkins and all the goodness that has been given to us. Remember to always be grateful as you prepare your delicious life.

Pumpkin-Chipotle Hummus

Perfect for November parties, tail gating and pre-Thanksgiving!

1 (15 ounce can) chickpeas, rinsed and drained

1 (15 ounce can) pure pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie puree)

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 canned chipotle chiles in adobo (seeded and roughly chopped)

1 large clove garlic, minced

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/2 teaspoon cumin

1/2 teaspoon coriander

1 teaspoon chile powder

sea salt

freshly ground black pepper

1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro (optional)

1/4 cup toasted pumpkin seeds

Combine first 10 ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and puree until smooth. If you are unfamiliar with chipotle chiles, add just one to the bowl before processing. Taste and then add the second if you feel like more heat. Add sea salt and black pepper if desired.  Sprinkle with cilantro if using and pumpkin seeds.

Serve with crackers, tortilla chips, vegetable sticks

Robin Glowa, HHC, AADP, “The Conscious Cook”, is a passionate food and wellness professional who earned her certification in holistic health counseling from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition and Columbia University Teacher’s College. She earned her cooking experience in the kitchen! Robin specializes in teaching healthy cooking classes to children and adults utilizing fresh, natural ingredients and super simple, extra delicious recipes. She also conducts cooking demonstrations for many local organizations and is available for cooking parties and private instruction as well. For more information go to www.theconsciouscook.net.

Robin’s blog is confessionsofaconsciouscook.blogspot.com