Call it squash, pumpkin or Cucurbita moschata. In some countries it’s a cattle food, in others, a delicacy. Decorated with a blue ribbon, they take the prize at any country market and carved correctly, they shine as jack-o-lantern. In ideal circumstances, large orange varieties can also become magical carriages, toting fortunate Cinderellas to balls – although the warranty does tend to expire around midnight, so be sure to have a backup plan. What other vegetable can claim half as much?!
Fairy tales aside, the pumpkin is technically a fruit and part of the squash family and has a multitude of different benefits.
Firstly, it is high in Vitamin A. Every cell in your body needs vitamin A, which regulates the growth and division of your cells, and helps your body produce white blood cells when you need to fight an illness or infection. It plays a role in remodelling bone, and it keeps the interior surfaces of your body healthy.
The hard orange flesh and tough skin does require a bit prep work and cutting up a whole pumpkin can be a major pain. Soften the rind by popping it into the microwave for about three minutes, or into a 180°C/350°F oven for 30 minutes and you’ll get on much better.
To make your own seedy snack, remove the pumpkin seeds, rinse off any pulp then pat dry. Toss with olive oil, salt, pepper, and whatever spices you choose, then roast in a very hot oven for 12 minutes, turning occasionally.
As for cooking pumpkin, the sky’s the limit: Roast it, steam it, or cut it into chunks and add it to soups, stews and curries. Most people gravitate to roast pumpkin, but purée is really the hidden superpower and here is our favourite way to get it into every meal of the day.
Smoothie: Add a dollop to your morning smoothie for a nutrient boost. Throw in some warming spices like cinnamon and nutmeg and some almond butter for the ultimate treat.
Pancakes: Stirring some purée and spices through your pancake batter will add a richness in both colour and flavour. Plus, it adds fibre and helps keep you fuller for longer.
Oatmeal:Mix pumpkin purée into oats and chia seeds to make pumpkin overnight oats. Add a pinch of spices and some honey to sweeten it.
Yoghurt: This is one for the die-hard pumpkin lovers. Mix a bit of purée with plain Greek yoghurt, a dash of honey, and a few chocolate chips for a satisfying sweet treat.
Curry:Beef up your curry by adding purée to the sauce, with warming ingredients like ginger and coconut milk to enjoy on a cold day.
Perhaps they were right after all – pumpkins really can transform your daily diet from dawn to dusk.