We are now halfway through Fall, and trees are turning into a gorgeous and vibrant palette of yellow, orange, and red.
Just like trees, crops are following the same flow, and Pumpkins are undoubtedly letting us know that the cold season is approaching.
Indeed, you have seen the carved vegetables on the night of Halloween, but did you know that this vegetable is very versatile
in the kitchen and super healthy too?
Conquering tables around the world, one dish at the time!
Pumpkins, also known as Squash (Cucurbita’s family), are remarkably close relatives to cucumbers, zucchini, melons, and watermelons and originated in the area of Mexico and Central America.
They have been cultivated for thousands of years, even before beans and corn. Columbus took the seeds back to Europe, where they were mainly grown in the mildest southern climates. Still, nowadays, they are harvested all over the 6 continents, excluding Antarctica.
The varieties of pumpkins are amazing in colors, texture, size, and flavor! From white to yellow, to oranges, red, green, and even almost blue: these are only some of the shades you might be able to spot!
And we can talk about the texture of the skin, sizes, and shapes: spotty, stripey, smooth, or bumpy! From miniatures to giants, from round to oval, evenly long or squatty. A wonderful reminder of the beauty that Mother Nature is offering us.
Something else unique about this beautiful vegetable is that you can use more than just the flesh! Seeds can be dried out and roasted to make an excellent and nutritious snack, or pressed to produce an exquisite oil.
Asian countries, such as Korea and India, use leaves while some European countries also utilize flowers in cooking.
Moreover, pumpkins are packed with vitamins A and C, potassium, sodium. Low in calories and high in fiber, they make excellent and delicious food for your everyday meal or special occasions such as Thanksgiving.
And what about recipes in Italy? Let’s have a look at a few typical Italian recipes with this delightful veg.
Sciurilli (fried pumpkin flowers)
One of the most delicious street foods you can get in Springtime while walking around Naples.
Freshly picked flowers, stuffed with ricotta and provolone cheese, salt, and pepper, dipped into a light batter and then deep-fried!
Risotto alla Zucca
Traveling to the North of Italy, we can find a delicate and tasty risotto alla Zucca. The choice of the right pumpkin and rice type is essential for this creamy and fulfilling dish. While the original version includes only vegetables and spices, you might be able to discover some other enriched with cheese or even bacon and sausages.
Tortelli di Zucca
It is a traditional recipe that goes back to the Renaissance times when pumpkin arrived from the Americas for their first time! Tortelli is a type of filled pasta mainly made in the Northern Regions of Italy, such as Lombardy, Emilia- Romagna, and Tuscany. However, the most famous is from Mantova, as it is a delicate balance between sweet and savory flavors. The original recipe will have a rich filling made of cooked pumpkin, Amaretti cookies, parmesan, and lightly spicy “fruit Mustard.” It will be served with a light butter and sage sauce and a good sprinkle of Parmesan cheese.
Being so versatile, you can use Pumpkins in the entire menu, from appetizers to desserts, but whatever you do, keep the seeds!!
Wash them properly and put them in a pre-heated oven for around 15-30 minutes, depending on their size, until golden.
Remove from the oven, cool for a minute or two, enjoy them plain, or be creative with spices!
We cannot talk about pumpkins and not mentioning Jack-o-Lanterns!
This custom originated in Ireland, where large turnips and potatoes were carved and decorated to warn off Jack’s wandering soul. But who was Jack?
Stingy Jack was a drunken man who tried to trick the Devil, and once he died, his soul couldn’t go either to Heaven or to Hell. Doomed to walk around the Earth only with a hollowed vegetable to light his way.
You can read more about the legend here.
Irish immigrants took the tradition to America, where the original root vegetables were substituted by the native pumpkin.
So next time you are buying a pumpkin, let your fantasy run wild. See if you can find different varieties, and get creative in the kitchen, not only by carving it!