Pumpkin Harvest is a Universal Celebration

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By Katy Wilkens

The pumpkins from my garden are ready to be transformed into sweet and savory fall treats. Pumpkins get their beautiful color from carotenoid (from the same root word as carrot) pigments, which include lutein, alpha and beta carotene.

Pumpkin is low in calories and low in sodium (unless you add evaporated milk and sugar). It’s high in beta carotene (vitamin A), a great source of potassium and fiber. The seeds are high in trace minerals like magnesium and phosphorous, and in vitamin E, protein and essential fatty acids.

This kidney-and heart-friendly vegetable is universally loved. In Mediterranean countries and the Middle East, pumpkin is used in sweet candy. In India, pumpkin is cooked with clarified butter, sugar and spices. In China, leaves of the pumpkin plant are stir-fried. Australians roast pumpkin with other vegetables like potatoes and beets. The Japanese serve pumpkin deep-fried in tempura. In Southeast Asia, pumpkins are filled with egg custard and steamed. In Italy, pumpkin is mixed with cheese to make savory ravioli filling.

Make the most of pumpkin this season with these low-sodium recipes. 

Curried Pumpkin Soup (Recipe courtesy of Lorna Brown Flynn)

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 large onion, chopped (2 cups)

2 cloves minced garlic

1 15-ounce can solid pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)

½ teaspoon dried thyme or 1 tablespoon fresh thyme

½ teaspoon cumin or hot curry powder

3 cups homemade chicken stock or water

1 cup apple juice

¼ cup Laird’s Apple Jack Cider (optional)

1 tablespoon Calvados apple brandy (optional)

1 cup low-fat sour cream or yogurt

Toasted pumpkin seeds, shelled and unsalted, or finely chopped walnuts or homemade croutons (optional)

Sauté onion in olive oil on low heat, about 15-20 minutes. Add garlic at minute 10 and do not let it burn. Add canned pumpkin, thyme and cumin and cook 5 minutes. Add chicken stock, apple juice and cider. Simmer about 20 minutes.

If you like a smooth soup, pureé it in a blender, then whisk in sour cream. If you like a chunky soup, stir in sour cream or yogurt without blending.

Jazz up the soup with 1 tablespoon of apple brandy, if desired. Serve hot, topped with toasted pumpkin seeds (see recipe below), or use walnuts or croutons. 

Serves about 10.

Nutritional information (per serving):

Calories: 127; Carbohydrates: 18 g; Protein: 2 g; Sodium: 164 mg

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

2 cups washed pumpkin seeds

1½ tablespoons melted butter

½ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce   

Mix pumpkin seeds with melted butter and Worcestershire sauce and spread seeds out on a 10- by 15-inch baking pan. Bake in a 250 degree oven, stirring occasionally, until browned and crisp, about 2 hours.

Serve warm or cool. You can store cooled seeds in an airtight container for up to 1 week. Serves 4.        

Nutritional information (per serving):

Calories:199; Carbohydrates: 4 g; Protein: 8 g; Sodium: 6 mg

[Katy G. Wilkens, MS, RD, is a registered dietitian and department head at Northwest Kidney Centers. She has a Master of Science degree in nutritional sciences from the University of Washington. See more of her recipes at www.nwkidney.org.]

 

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