A little bit of history
Did you know that the word pumpkin originated from the Greek word “Pepõn” which means large melon? Then the French changed the word to “Ponpon” and the English to “Pumpion”. Shakespeare in 1600 at his play “Merry wives of Windsor” refers to the word “Pumpion”. Finally the Americans changed “Pumpion” to the worldwide known “Pumpkin”.
I have read that the early Native Americans, pounded and dried the pumpkin flesh into strips, and wove the strips into mats, which they used for trading purposes. They also dried the shells and used them as bowls and containers to store beans, grain and seeds.
When do we find them in the market?
Starting by end of August till the end of March.
Why should our kids eat them?
They contain unusually high amounts of several carotenoids, which give their orange or yellow tinge. Some carotenoids convert to Vitamin A in the body; others may play a role in cancer prevention, blood-sugar control, and immune function.
Moreover winter squash contains special class of carbo-hydrates, which have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, as well as cholesterol- and insulin-regulating properties.
And did you know that a slice of pumpkin pie before bedtime might help you to sleep?
How to cut and preserve a fresh butternut squash/pumpkin?
Wash it, halve, and remove the seeds with a large scoop or spoon. Cut the squash into wedges and skin. It is exactly like what you do with melons. Use a big, sharp, saw blade kitchen knife.
You can keep it for one week in your refrigerator (cut in big pieces or diced or grated), or in freezer bags for the whole year.
This is what I do:
I cut the pumpkin into smaller pieces so that it fits into my food processor.
I coarsely grate the pumpkin.
If you don’t have a food processor, you can do it very easily using you cheese grater (the coarse grating surface).
I squeeze the pumpkin with my hands to remove most of the water and then I place it into freezing bags.
The freezing bags I prepare, contain 600gr of squeezed-grated pumpkin, because this is the quantity I need to make the best Mediterranean Pumpkin pie EVER. Kid-friendly guaranteed!
Pumpkin seeds have: Heart Healthy Magnesium, Zinc for Immune Support, Plant-Based Omega-3 Fats, Anti-Diabetic Effects, Tryptophan for Restful Sleep and Anti-Inflammatory Benefits. You can use them in your salads, soups, or eat them like a snack.
This is what I do:
I place the seeds in a big bowl full of water. In a few minutes they will float at the surface.
I dry them with a piece of kitchen paper, season with salt and roast them in the oven on a parchment paper. It takes 5-10 minutes at 150oC (300oF).
Pumpkin cooked across the Mediterranean
In Crete pumpkin is cooked with snails and couscous. In Epirus (Western Greece) they make salty pumpkin pies, and in the Greek island of Milos, it is the tradition to offer in weddings pumpkin confetti (koufeta).
In Italy pumpkin is found in stuffed pastas! They call this stuffed pasta Caplaz or Cappellacci in Italian - which loosely translates to big, old hats. It is traditionally cooked and served smothered in a butter and sage sauce. In Avignon Provence (France) they make velvet pumpkin soup with rosemary and thyme.
Spices: cumin, nutmeg, ground allspice, curry and cinnamon.
Herbs: fresh mint, marjoram, parsley, dill and dry thyme or lemon thyme.
Cheese: goat cheese, ricotta, mascarpone or the Greek “MANOURI”.
And of course RAISINS.
Secrets you need to know when cooking with pumpkins
If you want to puree your pumpkin to make a pie, or bread, or cookies, I would advice you to combat its excess moisture. How?
First of all, wash the pumpkin, cut in half and then in wedges. You don’t have to skin it. Remove the seeds, season with salt and roast it in the oven for 40-45 minutes at 180oC (350oF). Roasting encourages evaporation while concentrating the flavors. Your pumpkin will become sweeter, plus you can remove its skin easier. Just be sure not to get any browning or colour on the pumpkin.
Or you can cut your fresh pumpkin in cubes and sauté it in a non-stick pan with a little bit of olive oil.Secondly, after puréeing it in a food processor, cook it in a saucepot until it reduces and thickens.
Do not follow the above procedure if you want to make a risotto, or a beef stew with vegetables in a pot, or oven baked meals. In this case you just need some grated fresh pumpkin, or diced, or cut into larger pieces.