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Each fall, millions of Americans carve pumpkins for Halloween and enjoy traditional pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving. But with a little imagination, pumpkins become more than decorations and dessert. A versatile and nutritious vegetable, pumpkins can be used in a variety of healthy recipes, such as pumpkin burgers, pumpkin muffins, pumpkin pancakes and even pumpkin oatmeal.
The word pumpkin originates from the Greek word pepon, which means "large melon." A hearty crop and a member of the squash (Cucurbita) family, pumpkins grow on six of the seven continents (Antarctica is the only exception) and have enjoyed multiple uses over many centuries. Native Americans, for example, dried strips of pumpkin and wove them into mats-as well as roasting long strips over an open fire for a hearty meal. And in the earliest version of pumpkin pie, American colonists cut the tops off pumpkins, removed the seeds and filled the hollowed-out gourds with milk, spices and honey before roasting them for a tasty treat.
In addition to being an important cultural symbol, pumpkins boast a variety of nutritional benefits. They are low in fat and cholesterol, as well as a good source of fiber, vitamin E, thiamin, niacin, vitamin B6, vitamin A and iron. Pumpkin seeds, in particular, contain high amounts of dietary fiber and monounsaturated fat-a type of fat beneficial for heart health.
The recipe below, a Mayo Clinic healthy variation of pumpkin soup, tastes especially wonderful on cold autumn evenings.
3/4 cup water
1 small onion, chopped
1 can (8 ounces) pumpkin puree
1 cup unsalted vegetable broth
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 cup fat-free milk
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 green onion, green top only, chopped
- In a large saucepan, heat 1/4 cup of the water over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until tender, about 3 minutes. Don't let the onion dry out.
- Add the remaining water, pumpkin, broth, cinnamon and nutmeg. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Stir in the milk and cook until hot. Don't boil.
- Ladle into warmed individual bowls and garnish with black pepper and green onion tops. Serve immediately.
P.S. Do you have any pumpkin recipes to share?
Photo credit: Rich Bowen on Flickr