Friday 5 October 2012

Hey Punkin!

When I was a little girl we had a neighbour who always greeted me with "Hey, Punkin!"  

I was a pretty literal little kid and always wondered why that person thought I looked like a pumpkin.  I mean, really, I wasn't orange, or round.  I had arms and legs and no stem.  Could it have been that they thought I had a Jack-o-Lantern grin?  

I wondered about it a lot until I heard the same neighbour greeting another child the same way.  That child looked nothing like me, but nothing like a pumpkin either, so after that I just shrugged the expression off as one of those weird, inexplicable things that adults say.

I still wonder where and when "punkin" became an endearment, but I've grown very fond of pumpkin as a foodstuff in the intervening years.  

At our house we eat both sweet and savoury pumpkin dishes.  I use pumpkin not only in cakes and pies, but also in soups, stews, and curries.  Every fall I put by a great many pints of pumpkin puree and also a quantity of cubed pumpkin, canned in stock, with onions.  We always use it up before another harvest season comes our way.

Pumpkins have been around for a long time.  Pumpkin-related seeds dating back to between 7,000 and 5,500 BC have been found in Mexico, and pumpkins have been cultivated on every continent except Antarctica. 

Almost every part of a pumpkin is edible, including the flesh and skin, the seeds, the leaves, and even the blossoms:   

  • Here in North America, we are most familiar with pumpkin's use as a puree or mash that makes its way into soups, stews, or baked goods.  
  • In the middle east, pumpkin is most often used for sweets.  
  • In south Asia, pumpkin finds its way into both sweet and savoury dishes, including a number of delicious vegetarian curries.  
  • In Australia and New Zealand, pumpkin is often roasted along with other vegetables and in Japan it's cooked as tempura.  
  • In Italy, pumpkin is mashed, combined with cheeses and used to stuff pasta.  
  • In Kenya and in China, pumpkin leaves are served as a vegetable dish.  
  • Pumpkin seeds are an important ingredient in the cooking of the southwestern US and Mexico, and pumpkin blossoms (and other squash blossoms) are commonly served battered and fried.

Pumpkin is a popular food for good reason:  It's relatively easy to cultivate and tolerant of a wide variety of growing conditions.  It's nutritious too:  100 grams of pumpkin contains only 26 calories and no saturated fats or cholesterol, but is rich in vitamins A, C, and E, carotene, lutein, folates, niacin, vitamin B-6, thiamin, pantotheic acid, copper, calcium, potassium, and phosphorous.  

Wow!  Those are some nutrient rich calories!  No wonder pumpkin is popular with dieters!

Well, with everyone really.  I don't know a single person who doesn't like pumpkin in some form. 

What's your favourite thing to make with pumpkin?  Do share.  I'd love to know.  :)

No comments: