Monday, October 29, 2012
Pumpkin ohh Pumpkin
Ohh Great Pumpkin
Did you know that the pumpkin is a fruit and not a vegetable? And that 80 percent of the pumpkin supply in the United States is available in October? This article explores some interesting facts about the common pumpkin and provides useful websites where you can find pumpkin recipes, original pumpkin carving ideas and school activities to keep kids busy during Halloween and Thanksgiving.
The name pumpkin originated from the Greek "pepon" which means "large melon." The pumpkin is a member of the cucurbitacae family which includes cucumbers and melons. Pumpkins were unknown to Europe until after Christopher Columbus sailed to America. They are grown around the world with the biggest productions being in China, India, United States and Mexico. Out of all the continents only Antarctica is unable to produce pumpkins. The Native American name for pumpkin is "isqoutm squash." Around 90-95 percent of the processed pumpkins in the United States are grown in Illinois.
Pumpkins are 90 percent water and contain vitamin A and potassium. 100 grams (3.5 oz) of pumpkin contain 0.01 grams of polyunsaturated fat, 1.0 grams of protein and 3100 pg of beta-carotene, an antioxidant. The seeds which are usually roasted are a popular treat and a good source of protein, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, and other vitamins. Studies and research show that beta-carotene is linked with cancer protection.
Cooking with Pumpkins
Most parts of the pumpkin are edible. The seeds can be dried and eaten as a nutritious snack. The flowers, leaves and shell are also comestible. The first pumpkin pies were made when colonists sliced off pumpkin tops and removed the seeds, then they filled the pumpkins with honey, milk and spices and baked them in hot ashes.
Pumpkins are said to have originated in the Americas and Native Americans had multiple uses for them. They roasted and ate the seeds, dried pieces of pumpkin in flour, they ate the blossoms and made strips from pumpkins which they flattened and wove into mats. They also used pumpkin seeds for medicinal purposes. Today pumpkins have become a North American tradition and a staple especially during Halloween and Thanksgiving. Pumpkin is used for cooking in a number of recipes from muffins and bread to pies and custards. It is also used in soups, to make pudding and cakes. Pumpkin can be bought whole fresh or canned for a longer shelf life
In other parts of the world pumpkins are used for cooking in a variety of ways. In Italy pumpkins have different regional cooking uses, they are used as a savory stuffing for ravioli, sliced in small pieces and then fried or they are cut in pieces and then candied. In the Middle East pumpkin is used in desserts. In Thailand small pumpkins are served as desserts with custard inside. In India pumpkin is cooked with sugar, spices and butter to produce a dish called kadu ka halwa. In China pumpkin leaves are cooked and eaten alone or in soups.
Other Pumpkin Uses
Pumpkin seeds produce oil that is used for cooking, as salad dressing or mixed with other oils. The oil is a good source of essential fatty acids that help maintain a healthy heart and blood vessels.
Veterinarians recommend canned pumpkin as a dietary supplement for cats and dogs with digestive problems. Pumpkins are also used as animal feed.
In 2007 in a research on type-1 diabetes conducted by East China Normal University it was suggested that chemical compounds found in pumpkin extract are very good for pre-diabetic people and for those who already have diabetes.
The Pumpkin and Halloween
Many centuries ago the Celts used to celebrate the end of the Celtic year from October 31 at sundown until November 1st by remembering their loved ones who had passed away. To honor them on this magical night they set on their porches and window sills glowing jack-o-lanterns carved from turnips and gourds. The original Jack-o-lantern was an old drunkard who played tricks on anyone who went his way, so says the legend of Stingy Jack. When the old man died neither heaven nor hell wanted him because he had been mean and cruel during his life. Afraid that he would have to keep wandering in a never ending darkness Jack turned to the devil to help him his way through the darkness, the devil tossed an ember from the flames of hell to help Jack find his way. Jack kept the ember in a hollowed out turnip and since then Jack is said to have roamed the universe with his lit Jack-o-lantern.
When European settlers, especially the Irish, arrived in North America they discovered the pumpkin which lent itself to carving the Jack-o-lantern and they thought it was easier to carve because of the larger size. Halloween, however, didn't catch on until the late 19th century. Since then pumpkin carving at Halloween has become a North American tradition and a fun activity for children and adults alike. In the United States, long before its association with Halloween, the pumpkin was associated with harvesting, hence Thanksgiving.
How to Select a Pumpkin for Cooking or Baking
The best selection for a pumpkin to cook or bake is a pie pumpkin or sweet pumpkin. Pie or sweet pumpkins are smaller than the type of pumpkins used to carve jack-o-lanterns and the flesh is sweeter and not as watery. When selecting a pumpkin, look for a stem that is one to two inches. When the stem of a pumpkin is cut too low, the pumpkin will quickly decay or may already be decaying at time of purchase. Pumpkins should be heavy, and pumpkins that are blemished or have soft spots should be avoided. A pound of raw pumpkin usually constitutes one cup finished pumpkin puree.
Other Pumpkin Facts
•The size of pumpkins range from less than a pound to over 1,000 pounds, with the largest pumpkin ever grown weighing 1,689 pounds.
•In 2006 the total U.S. pumpkin production was 1 billion pounds. Top states in pumpkin production are: California, Illinois, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.