It's November and, among the seasonal vegetables, the pumpkin stands out for its colour, its sweetness and the role given to it in Halloween (which has just passed). Let's find out its origins and nutritional properties together!
The term "pumpkin" generally refers to the fruits of some plants of the Cucurbitaceae family. The cucurbite-type is the most widespread and also the best known for its use in the kitchen, so from now on, talking about "pumpkin", we will refer to it. Its origins seem to be in Central America: here it was usually cultivated by pre-Columbian peoples. The Maya seem to have been the first to select pumpkins with a pleasant taste (the pulp of most wild pumpkins has a bitter taste). These were then introduced to Europe by Spanish settlers in the 16th century following the discovery of America. As it happened with many other vegetables imported from the New World, it seems that even the pumpkin, initially, was seen with suspicion by Europeans and was consumed mainly by the peasant people, and then slowly spread among the wealthier social classes. Today it is commonly used in our cuisine and consumed in many ways: cooked in the oven or steamed, in risottos, soups, ravioli (the famous tortelli alla mantovana), fried in batter.
From a nutritional point of view, the pumpkin is considered in all respects a vegetable. You can eat it, therefore, in any meal, in combination with first or second course, in place of other types of vegetables. Like most foods in this category, the calories that provide 100 grams of pumpkin are very few, just twenty, as well as simple sugars, just 2.5 grams (about half a teaspoon coffee), despite its sweet taste. Pumpkin is also very rich in water, minerals and vitamins, especially calcium, iron and vitamin A.
Pumpkin seeds also have excellent nutritional properties, although, like all seeds, they are very caloric and are therefore to be consumed in small quantities, preferably without salt. They contain unsaturated fats (the "good" fats), minerals such as calcium, magnesium and potassium, and a good proportion of proteins. They are also known for their vermifuge properties. Already in ancient times they were consumed by the Aztecs toasted or raw as an energy snack. Today they are often used as snacks to be enjoyed naturally, but also dried and, later, toasted and baked in the oven. A good alternative to break the hunger!