We couldn’t resist featuring the pumpkin in our October blog. We see pumpkins on doorsteps and windowsills all over as Halloween approaches, many carved into spooky jack-o-lanterns. Legend has it that hundreds of years ago in Ireland, an unsavory character named Stingy Jack kept tricking the devil into not claiming his soul upon death. When he got to heaven he found that God didn’t want him because of his misdeeds, so he was condemned to roam the earth with nothing but a burning coal to light his way. He carved a turnip into a lantern and became known as “Jack O’ the Lantern.” People were so afraid of him that they would carve their own turnips and beets and light them up to scare Jack away. The tradition continued when immigrants arrived in America where pumpkins were readily available, and we’ve been carving this bright round gourd into Jack-o-Lanterns ever since! Since pumpkins are ripe and plentiful at the time of the year when All Hallows Eve approaches and the seasonal threshold between the living and the dead draws near, these “scary” traditions have survived throughout the centuries.
But the pumpkin is so much more than a Halloween decoration. This iconic fruit (yes — pumpkin is officially a fruit and part of the Cucurbitaceae family along with squash, gourds and even watermelons) is an impressive source of antioxidants including alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, beta-cryptoxanthin and many others, which may protect your cells against damage by free radicals. It’s also delicious and surprisingly easy to prepare.
The most straightforward way is to simply cut your pumpkin in half, scrape out the seeds and “strings” and bake in a 375 degree oven until collapsed and easily pierced with a fork. You can eat the sweet, tasty flesh just as it is with a little salt and pepper, or puree your roasted pumpkin — it’s so much better for you than canned pumpkin. Use it as the key ingredient in pies, muffins, pancakes and soup, to name a few. Below, we’ve included a super easy and delicious recipe for you to try.
1 small pumpkin
3 to 4 cloves of garlic (minced)
1.5 cups of vegetable broth
1.5 cups of coconut milk
1/4 tsp turmeric
Pinch of sea salt and black pepper
Olive oil (to brush on pumpkin flesh)
Pumpkin seeds and fresh rosemary (to garnish)
1. Preheat your oven to 375°. Cut your pumpkin in half and spoon out the strings and seeds. (You can save the seeds for roasting later.)
2. Brush the flesh of the pumpkin with olive oil and place the halves skin-side up on a baking sheet. Bake for approximately one hour or until easily pierced with a fork. Set aside to cool.
3. Saute garlic and onions until translucent. Add turmeric to toast slightly.
4. Add all remaining ingredients (pumpkin flesh, broth, coconut milk, salt and pepper) and bring to a simmer.
5. Once incorporated, use an immersion blender to create a smoother consistency and continue to simmer for about 15 minutes.
6. When ready to serve, garnish with rosemary and pumpkin seeds*.
*If you’d like to roast your own pumpkin seeds, simply toss them in olive oil and salt and spread the on a baking pan in a single layer in a 300 degree oven for around 40 to 45 minutes, or until crispy and golden.
Recipe adapted from Alternative Daily
Pumpkin is a powerhouse of nutrients that are not only good for us on the inside; it works its magic on the outside, too. It contains alpha hydroxy acid, a fruit acid that acts as a natural exfoliator and keeps the skin glowing. Plus, the Vitamin C and beta-carotene it contains are not only excellent edible sources of antioxidants, they also provide protection from UV rays while softening your skin. Zinc, a powerful healing agent, is also plentiful in pumpkin and can be helpful for preventing acne.
So next time you make pumpkin puree this season, put some aside to make a simple pumpkin facial mask. We’ve included the recipe below.
Pumpkin Face Mask
1/2 cup fresh pumpkin puree
2 teaspoons raw honey
3 drops apple cider vinegar (for oily skin, use lemon juice
Whisk all your ingredients together and apply facial mask to clean skin, spreading it all over your face, neck, and chest. Relax for 15 to 20 minutes, then rinse off.
So you see, your fall jack-o-lantern is not just another pretty face. Use it as a nourishing and delicious ingredient in your fall recipes and on your pretty face!