Beyond all the other traditions about pumpkins, the most important thing about them is that they are edible. They are also highly nutritious, being low in calories, fat, and sodium and high in fiber. That brilliant orange color comes from carotenoid pigments like beta-cryptoxanthin, and alpha and beta carotene which are converted to vitamin A . Pumpkins are as good for your eyes as carrots and they also contain Vitamin B, potassium, protein, and iron. But best of all, pumpkin tastes good. Even the seeds are edible and a common snack in Mexico where they are known as pepitas. Mexico being the original home of pumpkins, they do a lot of things with pumpkin. Another delicious way they do pumpkin is in empanadas. But my favorite may be pumpkin flan. I love flan in any case and pumpkin flan just adds to the pleasure.
But pumpkins moved far from their home in Mexico, traveling back to Spain with the returning conquistadores and spreading through Europe. When the Sephardic Jews were expelled from Spain by Ferdinand and Isabella pumpkins went with them to North Africa and the spread south. The Portuguese, like the Spanish brought back Curcurbitas from their colonization of Brazil and then spread them to Asia. Portuguese sailors introduced the version of pumpkin known as kabocha to Japan in 1541, bringing it with them from Cambodia. Pumpkin found it’s way to China, India and even Afghanistan. One of my favorite ways to eat pumpkin is the Afghani dish kaddo bourani and my favorite version came from a friend of mine who used to have a restaurant in Maryland. It looked so beautiful with the orange pumpkin, the red tomatoey meat sauce and the white contrasting yoghurt sauce.
In the Middle East, pumpkin is used in a well-known sweet delicacy is called halawa yaqtin. An Indian sweet version called kadu ka halwa is made ghee sugar and spices added. In south India pumpkins and gourds are the main ingredients in many versions of sambar, a stew prepared with ground coconut and coconut oil as its base. In Africa the leaves are often consumed. In western and central Kenya they are called seveve., and are an ingredient of the traditional dish mukimo. They are also eaten in Zambia, where they are known as chibwabwa. There they are boiled and cooked with groundnut paste as a side dish.
In Asia pumpkins are used in a variety of ways. In China’s Guangxi province, they also eat the leaves as a cooked vegetable or put them in soups. In Japan, kabocha pumpkins find their way into tempura. In Myanmar, pumpkins are used in both cooking and candies for desserts. The seeds are a popular sunflower seed substitute. In Thailand, small pumpkins are steamed with custard inside and served as a dessert. In Vietnam, pumpkins are commonly cooked in soups with pork or shrimp. So much variety, so many ways to prepare pumpkin how can you not find a way you like?
Americans make pumpkin bread and pumpkin pancakes, Italians make pumpkin ravioli and pumpkin gnocchi and South Africans make pumpkin fritters. Even the seeds can be delicious and they are a really healthy snack, a good source of protein, magnesium, copper and zinc. Have fun carving those scary faces but toast those seeds with some chili powder or garlic and parmesan cheese, don’t toss them in the garbage can. Anor your dog or catd east some pumpkin. It goes with coconut and peanuts and beef or chicken or pork and all kinds of spices. And while you’re at it, fix some for your dog or cat.
Yes indeed, pumpkin is healthy for dogs and cats. Canned or cooked fresh pumpkin and pumpkin seeds have many benefits for dogs and cats. Pumpkin is a great source of fiber our best friends, as well as for us. Pureed pumpkin (hold the added sugar and spices please) can help dogs and cats with both constipation and diarrhea as well as indigestion or upset stomachs. Just a tablespoon or two depending on size added to food is enough. Dogs seem to love it but cats may take some time and recipe tinkering to acquire a taste for it. Cats will likely not be as interested in the seeds as dogs, obviously. Both raw and cooked pumpkin is safe for dogs, but check with your vet if a chronic condition like diabetes or kidney disease is present. Always use fresh pumpkin. Cut pumpkin goes rancid quickly, so freeze any cut pumpkin not used immediately. If it’s easier to stick with canned make sure it’s plain, organic pumpkin, not pie filling or prepared with added sugar.