Pumpkins Pumpkins Everywhere!
Halloween is one time of year, which gets bigger and bigger in the UK every year. Not that long ago, this event could easily pass you by without much realisation, but you are hardly likely to forget now as shops fill with all things ghostly and supermarket doorways bulge with the familiar sight of pumpkins. Fifteen years ago consumer spending on Halloween was approximately £12m, today it is estimated to be around £300m, now that’s some growth!! From that total, it is estimated that £25-30 million goes on buying pumpkins to carve, something which a large percentage of the UK population does. The travesty of this is that of those people buying pumpkins to carve, over half of them just bin the flesh afterwards. This is in contrast to our friends across the pond in America who mainly do use the flesh to turn into a variety of culinary delights. So instead of binning all that edible goodness this Halloween, why not get inspired below and feed that hollowed out ‘flesh’ to your loved ones!!
If you are still not persuaded and need a little bit more encouragement to ‘eat the innards’ of a pumpkin, then you may be interested to know that pumpkins are a highly nutrient dense food packed full of vital vitamins and minerals but, at the same, time very low in calories. One antioxidant called Beta-carotene, which is responsible for giving pumpkins their vibrant orange colour, is especially high in pumpkins and this is important as beta-carotene is responsible for many positive health benefits including reducing the risk of developing certain cancers and protecting against heart disease and asthma. Beta carotene also has helpful anti-aging benefits, now who doesn’t want that!!
Pumpkins are also high in Potassium, which is helpful for those people who suffer with high blood pressure and they also offer a great source of fibre too, which is severely lacking in most people’s diets, but essential for a healthy digestive system and for reducing cholesterol levels. Have I convinced you yet that you should be eating that pumpkin??
If not, then the last nutritional fact hopefully will. Pumpkin is excellent for eye health as its flesh is an excellent source of the carotenoid called Lutein, which is a type of antioxidant and is commonly referred to as the ‘eye vitamin’. This is because Lutein can help to protect our vision, prevent against eye diseases, reduce incidence of cataracts and protect from age related macular degeneration (AMD). This also means that eating pumpkins will ensure your vision is on top form in order to see all of those ghosts lurking in dark corners of your house!
You will be pleased to know you don’t have to eat the entire pumpkin yourself to get the health benefits either, in fact only 80g of pumpkin flesh is considered one of your five a day, that’s about three heaped tablespoons.
If you have spent all your creativity already on designing your pumpkin carving, then you may need some inspiration on what you can do with all that carved flesh. Fear not, as there are literally endless possibilities here.
Autumn is definitely the season of soup and soup is a great way to utilise your pumpkin flesh. Not only that, but making soup is very hard to get wrong and you can literally put anything in it, within reason, and experiment with a variety of different flavours. One of the tastiest ways to make pumpkin soup is to actually roast the pumpkin before adding it to the liquid part of your soup and then liquidise. Roasting vegetables really helps to bring out the sweetness of them and will give your soup a totally different flavour than if you just boil the pumpkin. Adding sweet potato or carrot to your pumpkin soup too, will also enhance the sweetness if you prefer a sweeter soup. Red lentils, shallots, garlic and thyme are all ingredients that go well with pumpkin. You can also use the pumpkin seeds to sprinkle on top as croutons, or if you are serving it at Halloween maybe pass those off as teeth (no one will know in the dark!!).
Although pumpkin pie is synonymous with American thanksgiving, why let them have all the enjoyment of this great dessert! Many people find it off putting that a pudding contains a vegetable, try to forget this fact as it does make enjoyment of it far easier. There are many great recipes online for pumpkin pie so check them out and serve at your Halloween party. I guarantee there will be no leftovers!
Pumpkin puree is such a versatile way of using pumpkin flesh and freezes really well too so can be frozen in small portions and taken out when needed. What do you need to make pumpkin puree?…just pumpkin, and it couldn’t be easier. Remove the seeds, chop the flesh into small chunks, place on a baking tray and roast in the oven until soft. Blend in a blender and then spoon into portions. You can then use it to make pumpkin bread, stir into yogurts with a bit of cinnamon or nutmeg, spread on toast, bread or crackers for a great snack or just eat it neat!
Remember to save the seeds too and dry them out. These are highly nutritious and great to sprinkle on salads, cereals and soups, or can be added to muesli or flapjack.
There are many different variations of pumpkin bread and the beauty of it is you can add as many or as little other ingredients as you want. Ingredients such as raisins, coconut, orange rind, chocolate, banana and nuts are just a few ways you can really vary the taste of the pumpkin bread you make. Remember also that for those of you who are gluten free, you don’t have to use wheat flour, but it can be made successfully with other flours such as gluten free, oat flour or rice flour. Again this bread can be frozen and taken out a slice at a time. It also makes another great snack item and a great addition to a lunchbox!
Hopefully the tasty ideas above will help you see your pumpkin in a different light this year. Be brave and fearless this Halloween and eat your pumpkin! Happy Halloween.