Saturday, 13 April 2013

Kitchen Essentials: Pumpkin

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The thing about pumpkin is, especially in Trinidad, we don't always know what to do with it. We think our options are often so limited, mostly because we have this particular perception of pumpkin, or a stereotype of it, and we are not adventurous enough to try it in a different way. A lot of us know pumpkin as a food option on a "curry" plate or to use in soup, or recipes that it's not a main ingredient. We often overshadow that which is the fabulous pumpkin, because we don't see or appreciate it's greatness (and diversity). If you use pumpkin in other ways, and really use it, you will be surprised at the outcome.

Pumpkin in History
The word pumpkin originated from the Greek word Pep├Án which means large melon. The word gradually morphed by the French, English and then Americans into the word "pumpkin." Pumpkins and squash are believed to have originated in the ancient Americas. These early pumpkins were not the traditional round orange upright Jack-O-Lantern fruit we think of today when you hear the word pumpkin. They were a crooked neck variety which stored well. Archeologists have determined that variations of squash and pumpkins were cultivated along river and creek banks along with sunflowers and beans. This took place long before the emergence of maize (corn). After maize was introduced, ancient farmers learned to grow squash with maize and beans using the "Three Sisters" tradition. (source)

Let me give you a couple of reasons to head to the grocery/vegetable mart:
  • It's cheap. Pumpkins are often sold by the pound, in pieces. If you want whole pumpkins, you can find that too. Usually you'd get that from the trucks that sell them straight from the garden. However, when cooked down, you can get about 1-2 cups of pumpkin puree from a piece of pumpkin sold for approximately TT$5.00 (less than US$1.00).
  • It grows well. You can have organic pumpkin for even cheaper if you grow it yourself. And they are pretty tolerant in different types of weather, so it's even better.
  • It freezes well. Freezing pumpkin is good for a number of reasons. It will stay for a while in the freezer and you will always have some available. When you freeze pumpkin, it thaws soft, and can be made into a puree without cooking. So that's less time and energy for you!
  • It's quick (and easy)! Especially if you use thawed (frozen) pumpkin, it's very fast to prepare. Pumpkin is full of its own unique flavour so it's easy to cook with minimal ingredients.
  • Diversity! If you're willing to be a little adventurous, there are many ways to prepare pumpkin that you may be able to manipulate to your liking. Just try it!
  • Even the seeds are edible!
  • It's healthy. Come on, it's a vegetable! Or fruit! However you want to classify it, it's good for you!
Check out this CNN video of the health benefits of pumpkin as well as a recipe!


Here's a few lovely recipes I've found using pumpkin, that I'm sure you'd love!
  1. Allrecipes.com Pumpkin Bread - This is an honestly fabulous recipe for pumpkin bread from Allrecipes.com's user Laurie Bennett. It has over 6,000 five-star ratings, which is well deserved. Try it, it's a great alternative to the more traditional "sweet bread" we enjoy in this country.
  2. Paula Deen's Pumpkin Pie - You know this lady would not lead you astray! 
  3. Spicy Pumpkin Pasta - This pasta was my inspiration to try my own. I have made pumpkin pasta time and time again since the first, and I never get tired of it. It's definitely one of my favourite quick-and-easy go-to meals! (I shall post a recipe soon for my version of pumpkin pasta [including alternatives].)
  4. Pumpkin Soup - It's a classic, right? There are so many wonderful variations, you should try as many as you can. Pumpkin soup with some toast, or even a grilled cheese sandwich? Yum!
  5. Pumpkin Coconut Curry (with Chicken) - "Curry" sort of pumpkin, but not nearly the same as we're used to. Try something new!
  6. Pumpkin Chili - I kid you not.
  7. Pumpkin Pie Martini - It isn't only for chewing, you know.

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I won't lie to you... Pumpkins are too fabulous to leave behind. Go get some!

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