Pumpkins can be found as far back as people have walked across the Americas. In the Huron creation myth the pumpkin vine grew from the head of the divine woman, the first person to grace the earth. It was said that pumpkins (along with their sisters, beans and maize) could defeat evil. I'm not sure how much evil they've thwarted, but they sure have brought a lot of joy to the tables they've graced—in pumpkin pies, pumpkin pancakes with macadamia nuts, pumpkin bread with chocolate chips and pecans, and curried pumpkin stew, to name just a few of my personal favorites.
Pumpkins can be found as far back as people have walked across the Americas.
The word "Pumpkin" was morphed by the French, English, and Americans from the original Greek word, pepon, meaning "large melon." Evidence shows that all pumpkins (being squash) were domesticated in Mesoamerica about 8,000 to 10,000 years ago. Archaeologists have determined that before the emergence of maize, ancient farmers grew varieties of pumpkins and squash along riverbanks with sunflowers and beans. Once maize was introduced, the "three sisters" tradition began and the pumpkins (or squash), corn, and beans thrived by growing side by side. Corn acts as a natural trellis for beans to grow on, while bean roots put nitrogen into the soil, nourishing the corn. The bean vines provide strength to the corn stalks for windy days, and the pumpkin or squash shelters the corn's shallow roots, offering shade and preserving moisture. A symbiotic relationship at its best!
Pumpkins are full of good-for-you stuff, such as beta-carotene, iron, vitamin C, and potassium, and a smidgen of calcium and folic acid. In the middle of winter, when simplicity is the name of the game, stews are my favorite hearty meal. My go-to right now is curried pumpkin stew. I put it in a slow cooker before I dash out the door in the morning and when I return home, I throw on a pot of rice and serve it with the stew.
- 1 medium kabocha pumpkin, peeled and diced
- 1 medium onion (coarsely chopped)
- 3 parsnips, peeled and diced
- 28 ounces cooked chickpeas
- 3 quarts water
- 1 bunch kale, washed and finely chopped
- 7 ounces creamed coconut
- 2 tablespoons ghee
- 2 tablespoons curry powder (You can adjust this to your taste. I like strong curry.)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon anise seed
Throw it all in a slow cooker together, except for the kale. Walk away. Let it simmer all day on low. Sauté the kale in 1 teaspoon ghee and 1/4 cup water, and fold into the stew 20 minutes before serving. Serve over rice and top with a dollop of yogurt.
Throw it all in a slow cooker together, except for the kale. Walk away.
(Were you hoping for the gluten-free pumpkin and macadamia nut pancakes or perhaps the pumpkin bread with chocolate chips and pecans instead? Tune in next month. Perhaps they will appear!)