Michael van Straten
Michael van Straten

Superfoods - The Pleasures Of Pumpkin

Autumn is my favourite time of the year when food is stored for winter use. Onions hang in bunches, ropes of garlic and nets of shallots adorn the potting shed. Squashes and pumpkins hang from the rafters.

Nothing could be easier than growing your own, as long as you’ve got some spare room in a corner of the garden. One of the best tricks I was told by one of the ’old boys’ on the village allotment when I lived in Buckinghamshire was to put a plant on top of the compost heap – it works and saves all the feeding.

My 84 year old next door neighbour here in France, has a fantastic fruit and veg garden including one pumpkin plant that climbs up the ancient stone wall between our houses. There are now two giant orange globes hanging on our side and Madame du Pain said we could have them. There’s no reason why you couldn’t grow your own too, then you could enjoy their great taste and huge health benefits for next to nothing.

To Grow Your Own Pumpkins

Plant the seed under glass in April or May – one seed in a 3 inch pot. They are ready to go outside when there are two good leaves and a third is starting to show, but wait until there is no risk of frost. As they are vigorous trailers with large fruits, leave three feet between plants. Save space by training the stem into a spiral like a Katherine wheel. After three pumpkins have set, remove all others and later, cut off the large leaves as they start to ripen.

There are many varieties of squashes and pumpkins from a hand full to 20 kilos and the Organic Gardening Catalogue has a great selection:

www.organiccatalogue.com or telephone 01932 253666.

I use Tom Fox, Rouge vif D’Etampes or Connecticut Field

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It’s a terrible waste that most of the pumpkins end up as lanterns on Halloween and even the flesh you scoop out is thrown away. These giants have a sweet and delicate flavour and are so rich in nutrients that they were a staple winter food for American Indians. Even the seeds are rich in the mineral zinc and vitamin E, so they are especially valuable for male fertility and sexual function.

They’re so rich in amazing plant chemicals that pumpkins have an incredible range of health-giving gifts from prevention to cure. The orange coloured carotenoids may seriously reduce the risk of lung cancer and a huge study followed many thousands of adults for 8 years and those eating most of these foods reduced their risk by 27% - 37% for smokers. The vitamin A in pumpkins even protects you from second hand smoke and can prevent the smoker’s disease emphysema.

Most older men will develop an enlarged prostate gland. It gets them up in the night and can interfere with an active sex life. Eating pumpkins and the seeds is an effective natural treatment and there are many studies that show how much man need this plant.

Because they’re harvested late and keep so long, they’re high up my list of Superfoods as a major source of the protective nutrients that can protect against heart disease, relieve asthma, arthritis and gout. There is lots of fibre that solves constipation, lowers cholesterol and prevents IBS.

Pumpkin is a good source of folic acid so enjoy it regularly to stop birth defects and reduce levels of stroke-causing homocysteine. All the squashes came to Europe with Christopher Columbus and the best of modern varieties will store well for up to six months. Some vitamin C will be lost but other nutrients remain intact and available when you prepare, cook and eat this healthy delicious veg.

Never waste another pumpkin

Pumpkin Recipes

Follow the links below for some tasty Pumpkin recipes:

Pumpkin And Haricot Soup
Veggie Stuffed Pumpkin Or Acorn Squash
Duck With Honey-Glazed Pumpkin


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