By: Judy Davie - The Food Coach
People get into Halloween more than they used to these days and on sale around the country are these huge Halloween pumpkins which you carve out the insides of, cut a spooky face on the side, stick a candle in the inside and head out with your kids to the neighbourhood to collect lollies. Pre heat the oven to 180 C
If this sounds cynical it's because it's the pumpkin we should be encouraging our kids to eat and not the lollies.
Pumpkin is a source of a great number of healthy nutrients so if you are carving out a pumpkin you'd do well to think about what to do with the flesh you scoop out of the inside.
Pumpkin is a good source of fibre and the very powerful antioxidant beta-carotene, thought to help protect against certain cancers and reduce the risk of heart disease. Studies have also shown that a diet high in carotenoids (found in beta-carotene) can help combat oxidative and inflammatory damage from UV rays on the skin - that means it will help prevent wrinkles.
What to do with the scooped out pumpkin flesh
A refreshing drink
It may be a little hot for pumpkin soup but did you know you can make a refreshing and delicious pumpkin juice. Simply soak the seeds and all the orange stringy bits in boiling water for 30 minutes, then pass through a sieve. Adjust the flavour by adding a little maple syrup and lemon then transfer to the fridge to chill. You could also give it a little fizz using a sodastream to make it sparkling and delightful - perhaps offer it to the trick or treaters!
Pumpkin puree for baby food or to use in baking
All that flesh can be passed through a high speed blender after roasting and used to make muffins and scones or used as a natural, free-of-anything-nasty baby food. In cakes and muffins the natural sweetness of the pumpkin means you won't need to use as much sugar as the recipe suggests which nudges up the overall nutritional power of what you make.
Cut the pumpkin into chunks and place skin side down on a baking tray in the oven for 50 minutes to 1 hour.
Once cool enough to handle, slice off the skin and blend the baked pumpkin in until it reaches a smooth sauce consistency.
Transfer to an airtight jar and seal.
Store in the fridge or freeze.
What about the seeds?
Don't throw the seeds out because the seeds are particularly good for you. They contain a wide variety of nutrients ranging from magnesium and manganese to copper, protein and zinc. They are also a good source of beneficial plant compounds known as phytosterols and free-radical scavenging antioxidants, and are also thought to benefit your heart, liver and immune system, help fight diabetes, and offer unique benefits for men's prostate health and provide relief from menopausal symptoms
How to roast pumpkin seeds?
Raw pumpkin seeds can be roasted on a low heat setting in your oven (no more than 170 degrees F or 75 degrees Celsius), sprinkled with Himalayan or other natural salt, for about 15-20 minutes.
And finally some pumpkin facts
Pumpkins were used as an ingredient in shortcrust pastry in early colonial times.
The largest pumpkin ever grown weighed 518 kg.
Pumpkins are 90% water.
Native American Indians dried and flattened strips of pumpkin to make mats.
The American Indians also used the seeds for food and medicine.