Pumpkins are the sign that Halloween and Thanksgiving are near! There are so many fun things to do with them, from carving, to painting to EATING!
The bright orange color of pumpkin is a dead giveaway that pumpkin is loaded with an important antioxidant, beta-carotene. Beta-carotene is a phytochemical that is converted to vitamin A in the body. In the conversion to vitamin A, beta carotene performs many important functions in overall health, including cancer prevention and healthy survivorship!
Current research indicates that a diet rich in foods containing beta-carotene may reduce the risk of developing certain types of cancer and offers protection against heart disease. Beta-carotene offers protection against other diseases as well as some degenerative aspects of aging.
Beta-carotene is an antioxidant that prevents cell damage from oxidation that occurs with aging and long-time exposure to environmental pollutants. Studies show that eating orange-colored vegetables and fruits daily may help fend off cancer and heart disease while protecting your vision, immune system and skin.
Your body only uses beta-carotene to form as much vitamin A as it needs. Additional beta-carotene can, however, perform important functions as an antioxidant and in supporting cell-to-cell communication that controls normal cell growth.
Note that it’s diets high in beta-carotene rich foods that are linked with cancer protection, however. High doses of beta-carotene from supplements do not protect against heart disease or cancer, and some studies show they can even be harmful, especially in smokers.
Once again, research is showing that it’s the combination of all the nutrients in a food that works together to fight cancer. It’s not just one part of it!
- 1 cup all purpose flour (for even healthier pancakes, use 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour, or ½ up all purpose and ½ cup whole wheat flour)1 teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
- 1 egg, slightly beaten
- 2 cups pumpkin puree
- ½ cup molasses or maple syrup
- 3-4 tablespoons fat free buttermilk or skim milk
- 2 tablespoons canola oil
- ½ cup chopped pecans or hazelnuts, optional
- In a large bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, salt, and pumpkin pie spice. Set aside.
- In another bowl, beat egg slightly. Add pumpkin or squash puree, molasses or syrup, milk or buttermilk and melted butter or margarine. Mix until smooth.
- Blend in the dry ingredients all at once. Mix until batter is smooth. Allow batter to rest for 30 minutes or more.
- Stir nuts into batter, and add additional tablespoon of buttermilk or milk if batter is too thick.
- To make pancakes, spoon a heaping tablespoon of batter onto a lightly greased preheated griddle or heavy skillet. With the back of the spoon, flatten batter to about ½-inch thickness. Cook slowly until bubbles appear on top and bottom is golden brown. Lift edge to check. Turn and cook until other side is golden brown.
- Place on a platter and set platter in a warm oven. Continue making pancakes until all batter is used. Makes about 24, 3-inch pancakes. Serves 4 to 6 people.
Healthy pancake toppings:
Here is something that my husband and I do to make our pancakes even healthier. Rather than topping with butter and syrup, we often will top with yogurt, marmalade or fruit jam, peanut butter, or a little honey. And we almost always top that with some fresh or frozen fruit!
If you are someone who REALLY likes pumpkins, you might enjoy these facts! I got them from the University of Illinois Extension Office Website.
- Total U.S. pumpkin production in 2008 in major pumpkin producing states was valued at $141 million.
- Total production of pumpkins by major pumpkin-producing states in 2008: 1.1 billion pounds
- 496 million pounds of pumpkins were produced in Illinois in 2008.
- The top pumpkin production states are Illinois, Ohio, Pennsylvania and California.
- The top ten pumpkin producing counties in Illinois are Tazewell, Kankakee, Mason, Logan, Will, Marshall, Kane, Pike, Carroll and Woodford.
- Pumpkins are grown primarily for processing with a small percentage grown for ornamental sales through you-pick farms, farmers’ market and retail sales.
- Around 90 to 95% of the processed pumpkins in the United States are grown in Illinois.
- Pumpkin seeds can be roasted as a snack.
- Pumpkins contain potassium and Vitamin A.
- Pumpkins are used for feed for animals.
- Pumpkin flowers are edible.
- Pumpkins are used to make soups, pies and breads.
- The largest pumpkin pie ever made was over five feet in diameter and weighed over 350 pounds. It used 80 pounds of cooked pumpkin, 36 pounds of sugar, 12 dozen eggs and took six hours to bake.
- Pumpkins are members of the vine crops family called cucurbits.
- Pumpkins originated in Central America.
- In early colonial times, pumpkins were used as an ingredient for the crust of pies, not the filling.
- Pumpkins were once recommended for removing freckles and curing snake bites.
- Pumpkins range in size from less than a pound to over 1,000 pounds.
- The largest pumpkin ever grown weighed 1,140 pounds.
- The name pumpkin originated from “pepon” – the Greek word for “large melon.”
- The Connecticut field variety is the traditional American pumpkin.
- Pumpkins are 90 percent water.
- Pumpkins are fruit.
- Eighty percent of the pumpkin supply in the United States is available in October.
- In colonial times, Native Americans roasted long strips of pumpkin in an open fire.
- Colonists sliced off pumpkin tops; removed seeds and filled the insides with milk, spices and honey. This was baked in hot ashes and is the origin of pumpkin pie.
- Native Americans flattened strips of pumpkins, dried them and made mats.
- Native Americans called pumpkins “isqoutm squash.”
- Native Americans used pumpkin seeds for food and medicine.