Ingredient of the Month: Pumpkin

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Pumpkins are the perfect winter vegetable and make a great addition to any soup or stew. Related to cucumbers, squashes and melons, the different pumpkin varieties are available year round and have fantastic health benefits.

Coming from the Greek word ‘pepon’ meaning “large melon,” the origins of the pumpkin are vast. Different varieties originated in different areas across the Americas, each with their own unique taste and appearance. For example, the Butternut comes from Mexico and dates to around 3400BC, whilst some of the round orange pumpkin varieties come from South America. Pumpkins were then spread throughout Europe and Asia by explorers, and brought to Australia by white settlers where they are now grown all over the country.

In the past, pumpkins have been used in a variety of ways. These uses include drying and eating them, weaving them into mats or using them for medicinal purposes.

Health Benefits
Due to its orange colour, pumpkin is a great source of beta-carotene. That means the deeper the colour of the flesh, the more beta-carotene available in the vegetable. Beta-carotene is converted to Vitamin A in the body and helps to prevent degenerative diseases. Along with this, pumpkins are also a fantastic source of Vitamin C, fibre, and potassium. Although they don’t contain a lot of carbohydrates, natural sugars help to develop the sweet flavour you taste.

How to Choose
When choosing pumpkins, look for a hard and thick skin and ones that feel heavy for their size. If they have been pre-cut look for flesh which is moist and a bright yellow/orange colour.

How to Store
Whole pumpkins can usually be kept for a month however, if they are cut they will store for a week in the refrigerator.

Cooking Tips
Boiling pumpkins is probably the only cooking method which you should steer clear of as this will make the vegetable too wet. If you want to mash/puree pumpkin, it is best to either steam it or roast it to make it soft. Other cooking methods include anything with high heat as this will help to release and caramelize the natural sugars. Apart from this, both Jap and Butternut pumpkins can be cut into thin pieces, and char grilled or stir fried.

Ideas for Using

  • Nothing beats a delicious pumpkin soup on a cold Winter’s day.
  • Collect the seeds and dry roast them in the oven for a highly nutritious snack.
  • Make a pumpkin pie.
  • Roast with maple syrup and toss through your favourite salad with goat’s cheese.
  • And if you really want to try something different, experiment with pumpkin and cinnamon porridge.

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