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"The Mystery Of The Pumpkin" - 30 October 2017

As you’re walking home this evening I’m sure you’ll walk past many houses with pumpkins lighting up the window! Pumpkins are such a common sight at this time of year however there’s also a certain mystery surrounding them..Are they a vegetable, or a fruit? Why do people carve pumpkins? And once I’ve made my lantern – what on earth do I do with the leftovers?!
We hope to give you some answers in this blog post! 

Are pumpkins a fruit or a vegetable?

The word pumpkin originates from the word pepon which is a Greek word meaning "large melon". The word has been adapted over time and it wasn't until the 17th century that they were first referred to as pumpkins. Many people think that pumpkins are a vegetable but they are actually a fruit! The pumpkin is part of the Cucurbitacae family which also includes cucumbers and squash. Although it has a more savoury taste than a lot of fruit, Botanists define pumpkins as a fruit mainly because of its seeds as a fruit is essentially “the section of the plant that contains the seeds.” Each pumpkin can have around 500 seeds in total!

Why do people carve pumpkins on Halloween?

There are lots of different theories about the origins of “Jack-o-lanterns” and of Halloween in general. It is believed that the tradition of making jack-o'-lanterns at Halloween is originally a Celtic custom from the 19th century. The first Jack-o-lanterns were made from carved turnips and potatoes and carried by the Irish and Scottish in Celtic celebrations to keep away evil spirits. When Irish immigrants went over to North America in the 19th century they couldn’t find any turnips to carve so used the more readily available pumpkin to carve scary faces into. Today most American households will have a carved pumpkin in their window.

Health benefits of pumpkin

As well as being rich in history, pumpkins are rich in nutrients, particularly the seeds!  Pumpkins are low in calories, a good source of Vitamin E and Vitamin A and loaded with antioxidants. The pumpkin seeds are a great source of fibre and mono-unsaturated fatty acids, which are good for your heart. When it comes to getting your 5 a day in, 80g of pumpkin (approx 3 heaped tablespoons, diced and cooked) counts as one portion of your five-a-day. 

What can I do with my leftover pumpkin?

Another great thing about pumpkins is that every single part of a pumpkin is edible! You can eat the skin, leaves, pulp, seeds, stem and even the flowers that grow on the pumpkin vines. Nothing needs to be wasted! Pumpkin is also such a versatile fruit when it comes to cooking - you can do so much with it - whether it be baking it, roasting it, steaming it or boiling it. 

Need some inspiration for what to do with your leftover pumpkin once the carving fun is over?
Here are some great recipes to try:

Pumpkin Risotto

Pumpkin curry with chickpeas

Spicy Pumpkin Hummus

Chicken with pumpkin and chick peas

Pumpkin Muffins

Happy Halloween and Happy Pumpkin-ing!

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