One of the first cultivated foods of the Americas, pumpkins were a staple food in Oaxaca (Mexico) as early as 8750 BC—long before corn or beans. By 2700 BC, they had spread to the eastern United States .The Pueblo, Apaches, Hopi, Navajo, Havasupai, Papago, Pima and Yuman all counted on the pumpkin’s flesh and seeds as a staple food. They roasted the seeds and ate them with chili powder or mixed with fruits and nuts. As for the flesh, they roasted, dried or boiled it. Mashed boiled pumpkin was mixed with batter or syrup or used to thicken soup. Dried pumpkin was sliced into rings and hung in storerooms for winter. Another historical pumpkin tidbit, resourceful African American slaves who were afforded few cooking utensils used carved out pumpkins and other squash as cooking pots.
From the Americas, pumpkins spread to Eastern Europe, India, Asia and the Mediterranean, where pumpkin seeds became a standard part of everyday cuisine and medical traditions. According to Muslim tradition, the Prophet Muhammad’s favorite food was pumpkin. Jack O’ Lanterns, carved from pumpkins, are a Halloween tradition linked to the Christian celebration of All Souls Day, initiated by the Irish. Today, Michigan is one of the top pumpkin producing states.
Pumpkin flesh is low in fat and rich in nutrients. One cup of cooked pumpkin provides three grams of fiber, magnesium, potassium and vitamins A, C and E—200% of your daily requirement of vitamin A (for healthy eyes). It also provides carotenoids, which can help lower your risk for cancer. Pumpkin seeds (pepitas) have anti‐microbial benefits, including anti‐fungal and antiviral properties. So, they are a great snack during the cold and flu season. Studies have shown pumpkin seeds may improve insulin regulation and help kidney function.
This Saturday, Nov. 1, OKT cooking coach, Toni Scott, and garden coach, Camilla Voelker, will share how to prepare and preserve pumpkin seeds and pumpkin puree. Cook, Eat & Talk It takes place from 10 a.m. to noon at Sherman Street Church kitchen, 1000 Sherman St. SE. .