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In Praise of Pumpkins

One of my favorite stories as a child was called ‘The Halloween Pumpkin’ by Pamela Oldfield. In it, an old woman carved out a pumpkin, mounted it on a stick, and placed a candle inside to scare off any errant witches and goblins which might be passing by. The pumpkin, however, had other plans. It sprang to life, hopped off, and proceeded to wreak havoc in the village by roaring at people from bakers to farmers and scaring them witless until a hungry pig put an end to its campaign of terror.

The pumpkin or Jack O’ Lantern is the symbol most associated with Halloween and it wasn’t until I did a little research that I found out why. Apparently, according to Irish legend, they are named for a man named Jack who was a miser and therefore could not enter the kingdom of heaven when he died. Since he had played jokes on the Devil he wasn’t welcome in hell either, so he was destined to walk the earth with his lantern until Judgement Day arrived.

Whilst our American friends regularly tuck into pumpkin pie, the week around Halloween is about the only time we Brits seem to pay this type of squash any notice.  However, maybe we should eat a few more throughout the year as did you know that pumpkins are in fact what might be termed a ‘superfood.’ For instance, they are a good source of vitamins A and C as well as alpha-hydroxy acids, which reduce signs of aging in skin. Pumpkins can also help promote eye health and guard against macular degeneration. They are high in phytosterols, which have been shown to enhance the immune response and decrease the risk of certain cancers, and they contain a high level of zinc, which helps to guard the body against osteoporosis of the hip and spine.

Pumpkin seeds are also considered to be amongst the healthiest of snacks since they are a good source of protein, zinc, vitamins, and minerals and are even believed to help lower cholesterol.

Go to BBC Pumpkin for some good ideas for recipes including pumpkin, but remember, unless you want a Halloween scare of your own always follow food safety guidelines, particularly if you are storing leftover food.

For more information on food safety

Happy Halloween!