Squash and pumpkins, a bounty of health

Pumpkins are Cucurbitaceae, members of the extended squash family.

Pumpkins are loaded with healthy nutrients while offering a low glycemic index. They are a great addition to your diet as they are low in calories and a good source of fibre, plant-based protein and minerals such as potassium and manganese. They are also rich in vitamins, especially carotenoids:

  • lutein and zeaxanthin: promote vision health by helping the retina filter out harmful sun rays
  • beta-carotene, also known as Vitamin A: promotes night vision. It is also an anti-inflammatory and an antioxidant that supports the immune system. A cup of pumpkin puree can contain nearly 200% of the daily value of beta-carotene.

Pumpkin seeds are equally as nutritious!

Pumpkin seeds are a good source of minerals such zinc, iron and magnesium•     zinc supports the immune system

  • zinc supports the immune system
  • iron helps in the proper transport of oxygen in the body and fights fatigue. A 30 g serving of pumpkin seeds contains nearly 5% of iron daily value
  • magnesium reduces anxiety, muscle cramps, premenstrual syndrome and participates in insulin production and cardiovascular disease prevention

  • A 30 g serving of pumpkin seeds contains nearly 5% of iron daily value
  • magnesium reduces anxiety, muscle cramps, premenstrual syndrome and participates in insulin production and cardiovascular disease prevention

They are also rich in vitamin E (antioxidant, promotes bright skin, strong nails and healthy hair), essential fatty acids, phytosterol (may reduce bad cholesterol) and tryptophan, an amino acid that may stimulate the production of serotonin, a mood-boosting agent.

Pumpkin seed butter is an excellent substitute for peanut butter, which is banned in many schools.

The history of pumpkin

La citrouille était déjà consommée il y a près de 5 000 ans av. J.-C. par les Mexicains. Puis, elle étendit ses racines partout en Amérique, pour se retrouver aux environs du XV-XVIe siècle dans les jardins d’Europe et d’Asie. À sa première visite au Canada en 1535, Jacques Cartier fut bien étonné de voir des champs remplis de ces grosses courges orangées.

Halloween Pumpkin Patch field perfect background image

Pumpkins were being consumed as early as 5,000 BC by the Aztecs. Pumpkin farming expanded all over the American continent. It later reached Europe and Asia around the 16th century. On his first trip to Canada in 1535, Jacques Cartier was astonished to discover fields covered with the large orange squashes. The Spanish explorer Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca is believed to have collected the seeds and brought them back to Europe during those years.

Depending on the variety produced, pumpkins sometimes reach gigantic proportions. Some can weigh up to 200 kg!

The Halloween Pumpkin

Fun fact: did you know that the tradition of carving monster heads from vegetables originates from Ireland? Historically, the Irish used to turn rutabagas and turnips into face-shaped lanterns for Halloween. This tradition refers to the legend of Jack O’Lantern, a young man who tricked the devil out of stealing his soul. To punish him, the devil cursed him to wander in eternal darkness with nothing more than a lantern carved from a turnip. Legend has it that Jack O’Lantern would reappear every year on Halloween.

Upon their arrival in America, Irish immigrants who fled the great famine of the mid-19th century discovered the larger and easier-to-carve pumpkins, and preferred these to turnips for their holiday symbol. In Quebec, the pumpkin carving tradition dates from the 1960’s.

Halloween magical delights

If pumpkins may be carved beautifully into heads of the scariest monsters, they can also lend their flesh to bewildering recipes! We often resort to throwing pumpkin flesh away. However, pumpkin flesh and pumpkin seeds lend themselves terrifically well to preparing muffins, cakes, pies, jam, breads, soups. Prolonging the Halloween celebration by cooking head turning delights with the bright colors of fall is wonderful. It would be too scary not to enjoy the health benefits of pumpkins!