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Pumpkins and Apples Mean Autumn Health Food

pumpkins

Supermarkets have piles of pumpkins

Apples and pumpkins are everywhere singing of autumn.  It was recently pointed out to me that apples and pumpkins have a lot in common – aside from both being emblematic of the season. Apples and pumpkins are both low calorie, health supporting foods.

We all know the saying ‘An apple a day keeps the doctor away’ but have we asked why this is so? What is it that makes apples delicious and healthy.

Actually apples are mostly water, but they contain a good measure of fiber which is so important to the health of our gut. They are also made up of carbohydrates and the simple sugars, sucrose, fructose and glucose, which give them a low glycemic index. That means that blood sugar levels do not rise greatly after eating. This is a good thing.

Apples supply vitamin C, and antioxidants that protect us from the damage caused by free radicals. All of these elements may help reduce the risk of cancer, hypertension, diabetes, and heart disease.

Apples also supply B complex vitamins that are key in maintaining red blood cells and the nervous system in good health. What a wonderful fruit!

It is true that the skin of the apple supplies most of the fiber and antioxidants. Cut the apple in pieces for your children, but don’t peel them. As a young person I used to think that the idea of serving raw fruit as a dessert on a special little plate and with a special little fruit knife was silly. Now that I am no longer young I have found myself following in my father’s steps, eating an unpeeled apple served on an ordinary little plate with a paring knife on many evenings. Or afternoons.  Which is not to say that I don’t include apple crisp, applesauce cake and apple pie in my dessert repertoire.

pumpkins

Pie pumpkins can be a soup pumpkins

Most of us don’t make use of pumpkin in as many ways as are possible. We go as far as pumpkin pie and that’s it. Even there we have to be wary of the canned pumpkin that many of us use. Canned pumpkin is often squash, and beyond that it often includes sugar and water.

Pumpkins are rich in vitamins and minerals, but like apples, they have a low glycemic index. Potassium in pumpkins has a positive effect on blood pressure. A cup of cooked pumpkin supplies more than 200 times the recommended daily amount of Vitamin A. The antioxidents in pumpkin also help prevent damage to the eyes. Pumpkin is a source of Vitamin E, Thiamin, Niacin, Vitamin B6, Folate, Iron, Magnesium and Phosphorus, and a very good source of dietary fiber, Vitamin C, Riboflavin, Potassium, Copper and Manganese.

While people have been eating pumpkin of all sorts for thousands of years, the modern cook would be wise to look for a pie pumpkin or cheese pumpkin to use in the cakes, cookies, bread, soup, risotto or pasta of the season.

pumpkin

Roasted pumpkin

We recently had dinner with friends who spent the first part of their lives in South Africa. They said that pumpkin was a staple of their meals, much as potatoes are of our American meals. While mashed pumpkin was an every day dish, they also regularly used it in soups, usually adding a half cup or more of applesauce.

I can see that I have been missing a good item to include in my shopping list and my recipe collection. As the days become cooler homemade soups become more

appetizing. Today my daughter Kate and I decided to make pumpkin soup from scratch with a bit of applesauce to celebrate the first day of fall.

We found a seven pound pie pumpkin at the supermarket and began checking pumpkin soup recipes online. There are many pumpkin soup recipes to be found but there is great similarity between them all.

My husband cut the pumpkin into eight pieces; this does take a little muscle. I cleaned out the pulp and seeds. We oiled each piece and put them in a 400 degree oven for about one hour. We cooled the pumpkin and removed the flesh from the rind. This is very easy.

pumpkin soup

Pumpkin soup – with a little applesauce and roasted pumpkin seeds

This is our improvised basic recipe. Serves 6

8 cups roasted pumpkin (and put the rest of the pumpkin in the fridge for another project)

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 large onion – diced

3 cloves garlic – minced

½ teaspoon cumin

½ teaspoon cinnamon

Medium apple – peeled, sliced

1 quart chicken broth

1 cup coconut milk

Salt and pepper

Heat oil in a 3 quart pot. Add diced onion and garlic. Cook gently till onion is soft and golden.

Stir in cumin, cinnamon and the cutup apple.

Add half chicken broth. Stir in the roasted pumpkin, adding more broth as you stir it in. Add cup of coconut milk.  Stir and bring to a simmer. Puree with immersion blender, or regular blender.

Ready to serve.

This is a basic recipe, but it is open to improvisation. You may want to use more or less broth, or real cream instead of coconut milk. Some recipes we saw added sweet potatoes, squash and carrots. Additional spices included varying amounts of fresh ground nutmeg, fresh grated ginger, chili powder, allspice, curry paste or powder, coriander, sage, and turmeric.

Some recipes include substantial additions, cannellini beans, bacon and fried chickpeas, shrimp, rice noodles, fennel, quinoa and cooked chicken. Bon  appétit.

Between the Rows  September 29, 2018

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