We never seem to notice the humble pumpkin until holiday time, but really, we should. Their beautiful orange exteriors are the perfect complement to the hues of autumnal foliage that signal the harvest season which we honor on Thanksgiving Day. While all are edible, nearly 95 percent of all pumpkins grown in the U.S. are carved into those hallmarks of Halloween: jack-o-lanterns.
In addition to their decorative colors and sizes, pumpkins boast unexpected health benefits as well. Pumpkins are a high-fiber, low-calorie food that's loaded with nutrients including copper, calcium, potassium and phosphorus. One cup of cooked pumpkin provides more than 200 percent of the recommended daily intake of vitamin A, 20 percent of the recommended vitamin C and more potassium than a banana. Pumpkins also have carotenoids which can help keep skin wrinkle-free and their seeds are filled with phytosterols, which are known for reducing LDL or “bad” cholesterol.
With the current campaigns to reduce food waste trending nationally, perhaps it is time to take those remnants from jack-o-lantern carving and toss them in your morning smoothie or roast them with some cauliflower or broccoli. Roasted pumpkin is excellent when added to rice, mashed potatoes or even macaroni and cheese for an added boost of color and seasonal flavor. If you're looking for a high-fiber snack that's perfect any time of year, just try mixing some roasted pumpkin with some chickpeas to make a super-nutritious dip that's perfect for entertaining.
1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas
1 cup roasted pumpkin, cubed
¼ cup tahini
¼ cup apple cider vinegar
1 clove garlic
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon cumin
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
Salt and black pepper to taste
Process beans in food processor until nearly smooth, scraping down sides as necessary. Add pumpkin, tahini, cider vinegar, garlic and spices and process until smooth, scraping down sides periodically. Tahini adds a subtle sesame flavor and depth to hummus. Don’t have tahini, no worries, you can substitute the nut butter of your choice, add a few drops of sesame oil or leave it out entirely. Once the hummus is full combined and smooth, taste and adjust your seasonings accordingly.
Serve in a pretty bowl and drizzle with some extra-virgin olive oil and top with some toasted pepitas. A dusting of paprika also makes a gorgeous and colorful garnish.