Usually when we hear pumpkin (or Barabo as it is known in Dhivehi), we immediately think of either pumpkin curry or pumpkin mashuni. And who can blame us. It is what we have grown up eating, what we are most familiar with.
But did you know that the pumpkin is one of the healthiest vegetables and can be use in a myriad of ways. This is what we try to explore this time round.
Health Benefits of Pumpkins
While pumpkins were once erroneously believed to cure snake bite and freckles, the actual health benefits of it are many.
- High in antioxidants containing, alpha-carotene, beta-carotene and beta-cryptoxanthin. These antioxidants help protect your cells against free radicals thus lowering the risk of heart disease and cancer.
- Is a good source of Vitamin C, Vitamin E, folate and iron. This means that by eating pumpkins you are helping boost your immune system.
- Low in calories, a serving of pumpkin (245 grams) contains less than 50 calories. This is great news if you are looking to lose weight and eat healthy at the same time.
- Pumpkin seeds are not only delicious but healthy too. Rich in nutrients, it helps keep your heart healthy, aids in digestion and keeping insomnia at bay.
As the internet is awash with pumpkin recipes, we’ll just give you guys an overview of the multiple ways the pumpkin might be used.
Soup & Salads
Pumpkin soup is a personal favorite. Roast some garlic, onions, peppers and herb together with the pumpkin. Boil the ingredients together for approx ten minutes and puree. Its one of the easiest and healthy dishes ever. Alternately, you can roast the pumpkin before tossing it with some greens (I prefer adding a green apple to the mix for a bit of zing).
Mains & Side Dishes
Apart from old favorites like curry, there are a myriad of dishes for you to try. Bumpkin bread and pumpkin hummus spring to mind. You could also try incorporating it into your rice dishes/cous-cous. Or make a spicy dish of sweet and sour to go along with your carbs. Moreover, the young stems can be stir-fried with some garlic and salt and makes for a crunchy addition to your meal.
Pumpkins are specially versatile when it comes to baked goods. It is considered by many as a great substitute for butter/oil. Apart from the ever famous pumpkin pie, pumpkin cookies, muffins and cheesecake are all options you can try.
Boiling Pumpkin: For every 500 grams of chopped pumpkin pour in one cup (240ml) of water. Bring to a boil. Once the water is bubbling, cover the pot and reduce heat. Let simmer and stir occasionally. Your pumpkins should be done in twenty to twenty five minutes. This depends on the size of the chopped pumpkins, if you chop it into smaller pieces your cooking time can be reduces to as much as them minutes. Test the pieces with a fork before draining.
Steaming Pumpkin: The most convenient way to do this is with your rice cooker. Chop roughly and steam it till nice and tender (20 – 25 mins).
Roasting Pumpkin: This is my personal favorite method to cook pumpkin. It allows the natural sugars to caramelize and gives it a much richer flavor. Cut the pumpkin into thick slices. Pre-heat the oven to 200°C. Place your pumpkin slices onto a tray and pop them into the oven. Let them bake for about an hour or until tender.
- Pumpkins originated in Central America and spread throughout to the world (one wonders how it came to reach the Maldives).
- Pumpkins are scientifically classified as a fruit (as it has seeds inside) although it is generally referred to as a vegetable.
- You can eat all the parts of a pumpkin. The skin, seeds leaves, flowers and even the stem of the plant are all edible.
Words by Asy
Illustration by Fathmath Azleena