Welcome to the pumpkin season! As we go deeper into the Autumn we get a beautiful variety of seasonal vegetables, including pumpkins and squash. With Autumn being a Vata season, it is perhaps of no surprise that the majority of vegetables we now get are Vata pacifying. I am seeing a lot of pumpkins in different shapes and sizes at my local organic food market and it got me thinking about the benefits of this colourful and warming vegetable. Did you know that pumpkins are rich in antioxidants such as vitamin A, vitamin C and vitamin E as well as a good dose of fiber? Vitamin A in pumpkins supports healthy skin and immune health, while fiber helps to balance blood glucose levels. Pumpkin also contains minerals such as magnesium and potassium which help to balance blood pressure and relax muscles to protect the circulatory system. But let's not forget pumpkin seeds as they are packed with nutrition including protein, minerals, B vitamins and amino acids! Plus the antioxidants and essential fatty acids in pumpkin seeds have been shown to help relieve inflammation, especially in the joints.
According to Ayurveda, ripe pumpkins can reduce Pitta energy and also help balance Vata. Although pumpkin is somewhat cooling, this quality is reduced when it is cooked especially with ghee. Unripe pumpkins should be avoided as they can aggravate all three doshas and are hard to digest. Pumpkins are detoxifying and thought to help clean the bladder and surrounding organs. Traditionally, pumpkins are believed to sharpen the intellect and induce calm. Therefore, they are used for a variety of mental imbalances and to reduce stress and agitation.
Pumpkins are also great for helping to balance out the metal element of the Autumn and prevent illnesses. Weaknesses in the lungs and large intestine often arise during Autumn as allergies, asthma and constipation. Pumpkins are sweet and grounding, corresponding to the earth element and can therefore relieve dampness and support digestive, respiratory and overall health.
I love cooking with pumpkin. From pumpkin soups to pies, breads and cakes, the flavour of pumpkin is unmistakenly Autumnal, sweet and satisfying. If you would like to try a sweet pumpkin recipe then I suggest the Maple Pumpkin Pudding by Alana Taylor-Tobin of bojongourmet.com. I love all of her recipes - I've tried so many of them over the years, and this is what I am baking at Halloween! I recommend making your own pumpkin puree, which is super simple to make, just blitz cooked pumpkin in the food processor or blender. The sweet rice flour, also known as glutinous flour, can be bought in any good Asian supermarket in the Chinese section or online.