Some varieties are available year round, but pumpkin is in its prime from March.
The power of pumpkin
This sweet, nutty fruit (yes, we thought it was a vegetable, too!) provides iron, folate, magnesium calcium and vitamins A and C, among other nutrients.
Pumpkin is also bursting with carotenoids, the natural plant compounds that give this gourd its bright orange hue. The body converts these carotenoids (which include beta-carotene) into vitamin A, which is essential to maintaining healthy eyes, skin and immunity. Scientists agree that it’s far better to consume carotenoids in food form than to pop supplements.
Carotenoids are also powerful antioxidants, substances that protect our cells from free-radical damage that can cause disease. They may help reduce the risk of some cancers, too, but scientists need more research before they can draw definite conclusions.
Pick the best
Choose clean, unblemished heavy fruit. Very large pumpkins tend to be quite stringy, so choose smaller varieties for their sweet, smooth flesh. To check for freshness, tap the pumpkin; it should sound hollow. When buying a pre-cut half, make sure it has no cuts, and choose one with deep orange flesh: the more intense the colour, the riper the pumpkin. Keep pumpkin in a cool, well-ventilated area for up to a month.
Capture the flavour
Blend: Make a soup: whiz cooked onion, garlic and pumpkin with reduced-salt vegie stock, then season with chilli and chopped coriander to taste. You can even use a small hollowed-out pumpkin as a serving bowl!
Roast: Peel and chop pumpkin in wedges, toss with fresh or dried herbs, garlic and a little olive oil, then roast. Serve these as a side with any grilled meat, or top a pizza with chopped wedges and a little goat’s cheese.
Bake: Fill small pumpkins with rice and spices, and bake. You can also add grated pumpkin to savoury-muffin recipes.
Did you know? 75g of pumpkin provides just 60kJ (14cal) and zero fat.