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With the arrival of fall, we Americans are all about pumpkin. From soup and bread to coffee and dessert, we incorporate the fruit into every imaginable food.

Not only are pumpkins tasty, they’re healthy. A cup of cooked pumpkin provides 245% of the recommended daily intake of vitamin A and 19% of the recommended daily intake of vitamin C. It also contains more potassium than a banana. Best yet, all that flavorful, filling pumpkin only totals 49 calories.

The roasted, salted pumpkin seeds, often called pepitas, are nutritious as well. They are rich in fiber, protein, vitamin K, phosphorous, manganese magnesium, iron, zinc, and copper.

Pumpkin seeds found in Mexico date back to 700-5500 BC. Native American Indians used pumpkins as a staple in their diet for centuries before introducing them to the pilgrims. The Natives ate roasted pumpkin and wove dried strips into mats. The early colonists cooked pumpkin in stews and soups. They also baked a luscious pudding with them by slicing off the top, removing the seeds, filling them with milk and spices, and baking them in hot ashes.

The word pumpkin comes from the Greek pepon, meaning melon. The word  went through a series of variations after being translated into French and English. The American colonists’ were the first to use the word pumpkin.

Pumpkins belong to the Cucurbita genus along with cucumbers, melons, and squash. Edible and ornamental pumpkins are grown in nearly every state in the US, although Illinois grows more pumpkins than the other five leading states combined. Farmers plant seeds in April and May for a harvest that begins in late July and lasts through November for a total growing time of about 120 days. Vines can grow up to 30 feet long. Flowers are dependent on bees for pollination to become pumpkins.

Libby, owned by Nestle Company, dominates the North American market for canned pumpkin with nearly all of their sales from October to January each year. Libby’s Famous Pumpkin Pie recipe is likely to be the most often baked.

(Do you follow my posts on my blog, Mary K Doyle Books?

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