Pumpkins, Gourds & Squashes
Autumn is the most wonderful season for antioxidant rich produce, all cleverly delivered at just the time our bodies need the most help in defending us from winter bugs and viruses. Do not ignore the deep jewel like golden colours of autumnal foods – the deeper the colour, the more nutritious it is, so keep ‘eating the rainbow’ as we cross over into winter to support our bodies in protecting our health.”
Gourds, squashes and pumpkins are one of the world’s oldest crops and all part of the enormously diverse Cucurbit family which contains over 700 species, including cucumbers and melons! The names often get mixed up and most commonly grouped together as pumpkins. Gourds are defined as hard-shelled durable fruit grown principally for ornament but many are also delicious to eat: the colourful turban gourd and other widely coloured and peculiarly shaped gourds are becoming more and more popular and available relatively recently in the UK.
The most often available and eaten of this family are squashes. Most squashes are in season in the autumn before the final frosts (like the traditional Halloween pumpkin and butternut squash), but others (such as patty pans, marrows and courgettes) are harvested in the summer. My garden overflowed with summer squashes this year which I ate abundantly in “spaghetti style” and I used the rest to make yummy soups and stews. Now, my garden is gifting me with this wonderful collection of squashes and so back to the kitchen I go!
Members of the squash family range in their glycaemic load – some, such as pumpkins, rank quite high (which means that they release quite a lot of sugar which can result in high insulin levels, not ideal for weight loss). This does not mean you should avoid them – merely that you should resist adding unnecessary syrups and sugars (like the famous Starbucks’ Pumpkin Spice Latte!). Eat in moderation for their wide antioxidant content and their delivery of essential fibre and team up with a little healthy protein.
Here are three ways I shall be eating mine:
Curry with Chickpeas or Prawns (above): the sweetness of these squashes lend themselves so well to rich coconut milk, garlic, chilli, ginger and curry spices – just peel and chop (I added some sweet potato in, too) into bite size cubes and add some protein such as chickpeas or prawns. It’s a perfect dish for a misty November day! CLICK HERE for my Chickpea & Pumpkin Curry recipe that I made last year.
Pumpkin Fritters: peel and grate them, beat and egg and mix together so that they are well coated. Divide into small batched with your hands, season and fry – yum! For a fritter recipe, see page 247 of Eat. Nourish. Glow and just replace the parsnip with the pumpkin or squash. I love to serve these for breakfast/brunch with an egg.
Simply Roasted: you can’t go wrong with just peeling, slicing and roasting with a little coconut oil, some herbs and salt and pepper and serve with meat, fish or a lovely runny poached egg on top! Or sprinkle with coriander and a spiced coconut milk dressing.