Scarily beautiful and delicious: pumpkins!


Scarily beautiful and delicious: pumpkins!

A “horridly” healthy gem of vegan cuisine

The thick, round orange superfood isn’t just for making creepy faces on Halloween, it’s also a fantastic all-rounder and favourite of vegan cuisine. In this article we delve into the wonderful world of pumpkins, investigate their origins, have a look at their nutritional values and discover some delicious vegan recipes. Did you know that there are more than 800 varieties of edible and ornamental pumpkins? And that in countless different colours and shapes! Get ready to become a real pumpkin fan, because these vegetable beauties aren’t just fun to look at, they’re unbelievably nutritious too… and tasty!

The pumpkin: a culinary globetrotter

Pumpkins are true globetrotters. Hailing originally from Central America, they were grown there by the native population thousands of years ago. The Aztecs and Mayans saw pumpkins as a prized food source; they also used it for medicinal purposes. Then Christopher Columbus  brought it on his travels to Europe, where they generated culinary enthusiasm and wrote culinary history. Now pumpkins are popular the world over. And we have the Native Americans to thank for gifting us this versatile vegetable.

The pumpkin has earned itself a fixed place, not just in the kitchen, but in certain traditions too, and it’s here to stay. In the USA, pumpkins are a symbol of autumn, of Halloween and especially Thanksgiving, where they’re used to make delicious pumpkin tarts, pumpkin bread and of course the famous traditional pumpkin “pies”. In their cheerful colours, we believe some giant pumpkin varieties in particular are a late gift from the garden and an ideal way of saying thank you for everything nature gives us at the end of the harvest season.

Pumpkin carving is all the rage at Halloween

But seeing pumpkins with creepy faces lit up from the inside again is a sign that Halloween is just around the corner again. This tradition came from Ireland originally. According to Irish legend, Stingy Jack managed to escape the devil through trickery and has been roaming trapped between heaven and hell ever since. He is said to have used a candle in a hollowed-out turnip to light his way. With their creepy grimaces, lit-up Halloween pumpkins are still said to drive away evil spirits to this day, which is why people like to sit them out in front of their door during trick or treating. In the USA, they call this classic pumpkin lantern Jack O’Lantern – a Halloween icon! The pumpkin most commonly used for this is a bright orange pumpkin that goes by the wonderfully creepy name Ghost Rider. Its skin is ideal for carving, but it’s also edible and has a subtle nutty flavour.

Whether you’re a Halloween fan or not, carving pumpkins (and making something tasty with them) is a great way to have fun in Autumn, be it with your family, as a challenge between you and your friends or even as a solo artist.

The pumpkin – a well-rounded source of nutrition

As well as being known throughout the world, pumpkins are loved around the globe for their valuable nutrients. The orange super-vegetable is full of vitamins and minerals, including vitamin A, vitamin C, potassium and folic acid. Vitamin A is associated with eye health and contributes to maintaining normal vision. Vitamin A also promotes a healthy immune system, as does Vitamin C. Potassium helps maintain a normal blood pressure, thereby supporting the cardiovascular system. And folic acid? It contributes to normal haematopoiesis (blood formation).

Other valuable nutrients include protein, iron, magnesium and Omega-3 fatty acids, which play a key role in a balanced vegan diet. Iron helps regulate the transportation of oxygen throughout the body, while magnesium supports healthy muscle function and the preservation of bone health. And taking 250 mg of the Omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA can help maintain normal cardiac function. Care should be taken to ensure a healthy lifestyle and a balanced and varied diet, since these are important to health (sources: Gesundheit ist wichtig und Ernährungslexikon für Veganer).

From Hokkaido to Butternut: vegan pumpkin creations

Hearty, sweet and wholesome: pumpkin can be used in all manner of dishes, whether vitamin-rich appetisers, hearty main courses or sweet desserts. Take pumpkin with coconut milk for example, it’s perfect for warming you up or as a light snack. This creamy soup classic is a real treat for the senses and perfect for cold Autumn and Winter evenings. A pinch of curry powder and a dash of coconut milk is all it takes to turn this soup into a genuine taste experience.

Speaking of curry: in India, pumpkins are a key ingredient in vegetarian and vegan cuisine, offering a nutritious basis for curries, dips and rice dishes. The Hokkaido pumpkin is popular in Asia. It’s also ultra practical: you can eat the peel too. Its delicate chestnut aroma makes it one of the most enchanting vegetables ever. The pastel-yellow, pear-shaped butternut (squash) pumpkin, aptly named given its subtle butter aroma, has hardly any seeds and is classed as a musk pumpkin. The UFO-like Patisson has a very distinct shape, and there’s countless other varieties to discover, like the Spaghetti pumpkin, the Muscat pumpkin or the Bishop’s Hat pumpkin…

Pumpkin as a main course, dessert or a snack

For a very special plant-based main course, why not try vegan pumpkin spaghetti with sage: this dish is a delicious alternative to traditional pasta and one that brings autumnal flavour direct to your plate. This combination of delicate pumpkin spaghetti and fragrant sage is simply irresistible and always a culinary hit.

Even the finest vegan cuisine is paying homage to the pumpkin, like star chef Ricky Saward with this fir ice cream and pumpkin recipe.

As a healthy snack, for dessert, as a salad topping or just for nibbling on, toasted pumpkin seeds aren’t just an insider tip these days. This crunchy delicacy is rich in protein and healthy fats. To make, simply mix pumpkin seeds with olive oil, salt and seasoning toast in the oven or the pan until they turn golden brown.

Pumpkin seed oil is a larder staple for Autumn soup fans. Fancy a few more tips? Hummus and pumpkin is another dream combination. You can also find a range of pumpkin spreads at Velivery, like this exotic one with ginger. And you have to try this pumpkin pesto for a fresh twist on your pasta dishes.

And since we’re here, we’ll let you in on the latest Instagram trend: puréed pumpkin as a perfect base for all kinds of wonderfully creamy pasta sauces.

Pumpkins are, without a doubt, one of the highlights of vegan cuisine. From their fascinating origins to their astounding nutritional value and the countless different ways they can be used in recipes – they truly are the superstars among garden vegetables and have rightly earned themselves a place as a key ingredient in our vegan diets. And don’t forget, whether you’re carving pumpkins or enjoying them in tasty dishes, pumpkins always put a smile on your face!

Three pumpkin recipes

Three different ways, three delicious creations – with these recipes you’ll be spoilt for choice when it comes to picking your favourite new pumpkin recipe.