Pumpkin is not only used in cooking but also in cosmetics, medicine and even as a container and utensil.
Pumpkins originate from central America and the oldest pumpkin seeds ever found were discovered in Mexico and dated back to 7000-6000 B.C. In North America, pumpkin was a staple food for the Indians and the first colonies learnt how to grow them from these native populations. Together with potatoes and tomatoes, pumpkins were the first vegetables to be exported after the discovery of America.
Pumpkins come from the large cucurbitaceae family and there are many different varieties that regard the shape as well as the colour. The most common types are the cucurbita maxima (for example, sweet pumpkin, green in colour) and the cucurbita moschata (for example, butternut squash), which should not be confused with cucurbita pepo, a species that includes common vegetables like courgettes. The fruit of the cucurbita maxima, considered the best pumpkin, has a voluminous form, a flat top and is characterised by a thick, green skin marked with deep, vertical ridges. It is usually very big (it can weigh up to 80kg) and the cucurbita maxima has a yellow-orange, powdery, sweet flesh. The cucurbita moschata on the other hand, is long, cylindrical, a bit ‘puffy’ at the tip, it can be green or orange, of medium size and the flesh is soft and sweet.
How to choose a good pumpkin ?
Pumpkins are sown in the Spring and mature in August. When buying them it is important to check that they are both fresh, hard and ripe: knock on it with your knuckles to ensure it makers a hollow noise. The stem should also be attached to the pumpkin and the skin should be clean and free from any marks. Given that pumpkins are usually very big, they are sometimes sold in slices but, in this case, keep in mind that the skin and seeds make up 30-35% of what you buy and make sure that the fleshy part has not been exposed to the air for too long and become dry.
How to preserve pumpkin ?
A pumpkin (still in one piece) can be preserved for the whole of Winter in a dark, fresh, dry place. Pieces of raw pumpkin however, should be placed in the fridge, normally in the vegetable compartment, wrapped up in cling film. They should then be eaten within a few days since they easily dry out. If you wish to preserve pumpkin in the freezer however, peel the skin off, cut the pumpkin into cubs and parboil them first before freezing.
A pumpkin can fill a whole menu, from starter to dessert, as it has many uses and each plate is very tasty and healthy. The nutritional properties of the pumpkin can be found below.
Pumpkins become ripe in winter. Ripe pumpkins are sweet, oleaginous and cool; they alleviate the three Doshas, particularly Pitta. Pumpkin sharpens the intellect and is good for the heart. It gives strength. It is semen promoting. It detoxifies the body.
Pumpkin gives strength to the mind. It is a sedative. It induces sleep due to its hypnotic effect. Therefore it is highly useful in mental diseases like schizophrenia, epilepsy, dementia, insomnia, irritability, mental derangement, agitation, depression, unbalanced state of mind and mental debility. It improves retentive memory and makes one mentally stable. It enhances the brain’s ability to acquire and retain knowledge. The mind becomes calm as restlessness, irritability and sleeplessness wane.
Pumpkin strengthens the blood vessels and cardiac muscles. It stimulates blood formation. It is a laxative. It helps in evacuation of bowels and relieves flatulence thus cures constipation. It is cool in effect and haemostatic. Therefore it helps in haemorrhagic conditions like epistaxis , vaginal bleeding, hematuria, and rectal bleeding. Pumpkin taken in the form of juice, avaleha or cooked vegetable is useful in pitta related diseases like burning sensation, excessive thirst, hyperacidity, piles, chronic fever etc.
Pumpkin is useful in tuberculosis. It heals the pulmonary lesions and consequently the haemoptysis disappears. One gets relief in fever and burning sensation and gains in body strength.
Consumption of cereals, vegetables and fruits grown with chemical fertilizers, and allopathic drugs cause accumulation of toxic substances in the body. It is one of the major causes of cancer. Cow’s milk, curds, and pumpkin detoxify such toxic substances.