Pumpkin seeds: characteristics and benefits of this vegetable variety
Not just for Halloween
The common idea is that the fruit is sweet while vegetables are not. Because of this, some cannot stand the flavor of pumpkin because it is considered weird compared to the type of food, while naturally it is just that that makes these vegetables so special and constitute part of why people enjoy them. In fact, their high sugar level and their particular consistency make it a perfect ingredient for side dishes and savory dishes but also for sweet recipes. Pumpkin seeds can also be used as a snack to much on, you can offer them as food to guinea pigs and birds, or even use them as decoration for some DIY projects.
There are loads of different types of pumpkin and the amount of pulp that can be obtained from each of these fruits is extremely high. Who has a vegetable garden must only decide which variety it prefers and - in case there is a lot of space - if they should also use seeds of ornamental pumpkin, that sprout bright colored non edible but long lasting fruits, to create centerpieces for the Christmas season, in which pumpkins replace flowers. So that you can have color even in winter.
Types of pumpkin and its usage
The edible part is commonly deep yellow, orange or white ( in the so called siamese squash), and from the seeds of the pumpkin cultivated for edible purposes, a medium to large fruit is obtained, of which pulp can be eaten when baked or steamed, variously prepared to make soups, cakes, risottos and as a filling of typical Mantova tortelli.
The pumpkins belong to the Cucubitacee family (the same for melons, watermelons and cucumbers) and their shape can vary greatly. So, they range from the orange peel one used as a monstrous lantern for Halloween (called Jack-o'-lantern, from specimens of Cucurbita Maxima), to that more round shaped and with a deep green peel commonly sold in autumn, the crookneck squash that twist on themselves, to those rather small, lumpy and of various colors used to decorate.
The pumpkin seed seeds of the type used as a snack are flattened, and sometimes are used instead of sunflower seeds, almond shapes, long circa 2 centimeters and of light color; they are salted on the surface and have a high content of arginine, an amino acid that contribute to the good maintenance of muscle tissue.
Nutritional characteristics and recipes
It seems incredible but from pumpkin seeds - which are not that big - a fruit that is a hundred times bigger and heavier develops, rich in vitamin A and of beta-carotene (supplies 20% of the daily required intake), with modest levels of vitamin C and spread in kitchens all over the world.
Pumpkin has low calories and is over 90% water composed; the small and still unripe specimens can be used like zucchini, and all the parts of the plant are edible; in late spring pumpkin (or zucchini) flowers are harvested, to used for frying in batter, by themselves or after having filled them with a vegetables or tuna mixture.
In the United States the "Pumpkin Pie" is a traditional dish for thanksgiving; in and ideal Italian version, a base of puff pastry can be filled with cooked pumpkin that has been flavored with powdered ginger, or with rosemary and nutmeg. Otherwise, it can be used to prepare homemade tortellini with pine nuts and seasoned with sage and butter or even pesto. With pumpkin seeds you can prepare bread, by integrating them in the dough, or even energizing bars with sugar, honey and other types of seeds or a middle eastern flavored chicken stew, that contains pumpkin pulp, raisins, almonds and mint.
Curiosities and other usages
In Japan, some rare artisans still dig in the pulp and dry the thick and robust rind of some big pumpkins, obtaining containers called “fukabe”, eco friendly and practical at the same time.
In addition to the United States, the custom of carving pumpkins into some scary shapes and using them as lanterns was found in some regions of Italy too, at least until a few years ago.
Pumpkin seeds that are dried, colored or not, can be used as decorative elements in objects such as diaries, notebooks, cards and other things made with cartonnage and decoupage methods.