Lena Gill, RD, CSO, CD – North Star Lodge
Fall has definitely arrived in the Yakima Valley! One of my favorite vegetables in abundance this time of year is pumpkin. There are countless varieties of this fun squash, each with a different purpose in mind:
- Sugar – excellent for baking
- Jack O’Lantern – most common for carving
- White Lumina – unusual, medium-sized white pumpkin
- Mini – great for decoration
- Gourds – many varieties, used for decorations
Regardless of the size, shape and variety of pumpkin, there are many health benefits when eaten.
Pumpkins are full of beta-carotene which can help prevent heart disease and certain cancers. Most specifically, pumpkins have been in the news for their benefits in preventing breast cancer. October is Breast Cancer Awareness month and a newly founded organization, the Pink Pumpkin Patch Foundation, has commissioned farmers to grow pink pumpkins—a portion from every pink pumpkin sold goes to support breast cancer research. Pumpkins also contain potassium (essential for the proper functioning of the heart, kidneys, muscles, nerves, and digestive system) and Vitamin A (which helps form and maintain healthy skin, teeth, skeletal and soft tissue, mucus membranes, and skin).
Some other fun facts about pumpkins:
- Pumpkins are actually a fruit (I know, I referred to it as a vegetable earlier!)
- About 90-95% of pumpkins are grown in Illinois
- Pumpkin flowers are edible
- The Native Americans used pumpkin seeds for medicine and for food
- Pumpkins range in size from under a pound to over 1,000 pounds
Here are some of my favorite pumpkin recipes—Check them out and feel free to share your comments on your favorites, too!
Pumpkin Chili When I made this, I didn’t have lentils, so I substituted a can of pinto beans-Delicious!
Pumpkin Pie Why mess with tradition? The holidays are coming!
Pumpkin Peanut Butter Cups I haven’t made these yet, but I thought they’d make a great addition to holiday baking!