It’s Halloween time! Or rather, pumpkin time. Nature has spread a natural orange glow across Illinois.
Stores are full of various pumpkins. People buy them in abundance to decorate their drive ways, doorsteps, yards, porches, windowsills, living rooms, drawing rooms and kitchen counter-tops. They also take them to sit on their office tables and other workplaces, from schools to hospitals.
Illuminated Jack O’ Lanterns light the evening streets.
However, soon after Halloween, pumpkins are dumped in garbage cans and dumpsters.
It’s food, people. It’s food.
Every piece of pumpkin grown in other countries is sold as a vegetable and fruit and utilized purely for food purposes.
Housewives in countries like India and Pakistan cook it on the stove turning the yellow mush into delicious sauces, curries and sweet dishes like Halwa. In families with meager resources, they simply cut it into slices, steam it in a pot of boiling water and consume it without adding sugar and milk.
People in Puerto Rico rely on pumpkin as a food item since it’s cheap and nutritious.
“It is a great baby food. We cut it into cubes and boil it. Then mash it, season it with salt and feed this mush to children,” says Maria Dross, 62.
Dross, who was born in Puerto Rico and moved to Chicago after getting married, does not believe in Halloween.
“I grew up eating pumpkin seeds. But they were expensive because they were imported from other countries,” says Helena Szymanska, 41, a Polish-born American.
She moved to the United States after finishing high school. People in Poland know little about pumpkins because Poland’s climatic conditions are not favorable to pumpkin growth.
Pumpkin was a staple in American diet long before the first Thanksgiving feast at Plymouth Rock, Massachusetts, in 1621. Since that feast, pumpkins have become a tradition on American Thanksgiving tables, served primarily in the form of pumpkin pie.
Unfortunately, today the pumpkin is generally known not for its nutritional value, but as a decorative jack-o-lantern.
“It is so huge in size you can’t think of food,” says American-born Deborah Threlkeld, 37. “Its association with fear and fright makes it difficult to link it with food.”
According to a report “Pumpkins: A small-scale agriculture alternative,” pumpkin is very high in fiber and vitamin A. It also contains plenty of beta carotene which has recently received credit for cancer-preventing qualities.
Illinois is the largest producer of pumpkins. The state produces nearly one-third of the nation’s pumpkins.
At least in this economic depression we will not go hungry. We have got pumpkins, enough to go around a long way.
Here are 21 recipes for cooking with pumpkins.