Different cultures have varying takes on uses for produce. A friend of mine lived in Paris for years, always disbelieving that, in such a sea of fresh, healthy vegetables, she couldn’t find her beloved kale. Finally, one day while jogging through the Jardin de Luxembourg, she found it: the leafy vegetable, a staple of stews and side dishes, was standing upright in a planter, serving a strictly decorative function.
We have a similar relationship to many squashes here in North America. Despite their terrific nutritional properties, we often like to display them in a bowl or stick them out on the front porch with a candle sitting in them. But pumpkins and other squashes offer excellent health benefits and we’d all be well served to include more of them in our diets.
Grace Ouano (known as Grace O) is the author of FoodTrients: Age Defying Recipes for Sustainable Life. She explains these hearty foods are full of nutrients like vitamins A and C, folate, potassium and fibre beneficial for skin, hair, eyes and the heart.
If you’ve lugged a pumpkin home from the grocery store and have no idea what to do with it, or you have family members (yourself included) that aren’t big on the taste, try these O’s options below:
2. Make squash chips. Peel, de-seed, and slice raw hubbard squash on a mandolin or other food slicer and lay the chips on a greased baking sheet in a single layer. Set the oven to its lowest setting (200F or so), and let the chips dry out in the oven. A light sprinkling of sea salt will really bring out their flavour.
3. If you prefer a pure squash soup, steam or boil butternut squash (without the rind or seeds) and blend with salt, a bit of balsamic vinegar or soy sauce, and chicken or vegetable stock (to thin it out). A spoonful or two of yogurt smoothies the tastes of this soup nicely. Top with croutons or toasted pumpkin seeds. For a spicier dish, stir in a sprinkling of cayenne pepper and/or paprika.
4. For dinner, stir-fry one-inch cubes of acorn squash, chopped kale, olive oil, garlic, onions, and freshly grated ginger (you can add string beans and scallions, too) in peanut oil for 7-10 minutes, or until crisp-tender. To make the sauce, mix oyster sauce and cornstarch and add it to the stir-fry near the end of cooking. This dish is wonderful topped with seared beef or fried tofu and served over brown rice.
5. For a carotenoid-rich dessert, use cubes of pumpkin or almost any winter squash without its seeds or rind. Boil the cubes in a mixture of equal parts sugar and water (a simple syrup, really) until tender, 10-15 minutes. Then serve it with butter and a sprinkling of cinnamon.
What’s your favourite use for pumpkin?