Queen of autumn, It comes from afar and precisely from Central America, but it is perfectly acclimatised in Europe and Italy: It is the pumpkin. So today we talk about the pumpkin in the kitchen: the origins, its thousands of varieties, the nutritional properties and its many benefits. Actually, talking pumpkin in the singular is already a mistake, since there are many varieties of pumpkins, all different in color, in the appearance of skin and of course in the pulp. The humble pumpkin is a vegetable with a thousand virtues and a thousand uses and is a little’ like pork and like tuna: pumpkin, In fact, do not throw anything away. The pulp is obviously the most valuable part, but the seeds and peel are also edible. Each of the pumpkin in the kitchen has its use, its properties and its characteristics, as you can see peeking between RECIPES WITH PUMPKIN.
PUMPKIN IN THE KITCHEN: DO NOT MISS THE RECIPES
The pumpkin in the kitchen is versatile and has many uses, according to the types. Typically, varieties with drier pulp and powder are better suited for farce, stuffed, for the preparation of sweets and baking. Those most aqueous for soups, velvety, to be grilled or cooked in a pan. For example,, The Nutmeg of Provence is perfect for preparing the PUMPKIN AND SOUR TO SICILY (you can also find in VIDEO RECIPE), while the Delica or Iron Cup are excellent for the BAKED PUMPKIN.
A crude, you can use it to prepare the tasty PARMIGIANA PUMPKIN, Winter excellent alternative to that of eggplant.
Use the variety you prefer to prepare the very classic RISOTTO PUMPKIN, Also in the variant WITH SAUSAGE, Pumpkin is also perfect for creating tasty Lasagna Autumn and obviously a thousand creams, as the PUMPKIN SOUP and MUSHROOMS pioppini. In cream, you can use to dress in an original way a dish SPAGHETTI WITH CREAM OF PUMPKIN, SAGE and AMARETTI.
The dessert recipes
Due to its naturally sweet taste, pumpkin in the kitchen is also perfect dessert preparations. Just have the foresight to use a variety of dry pulp pumpkin, little aqueous, compact and slightly floury: from JAM PUMPKIN with cinnamon and Vin Santo, filling for cakes or breakfast, It is passed to the delicious TIRAMISU’ PUMPKIN.Then there are the classic American desserts such as soft PUMPKIN PIE without butter, the CINNAMON ROLLS WITH PUMPKIN, very soft brioche with icing cheese or the traditional PUMPKIN PIE, sweet pumpkin pie served with whipped cream.
A little’ of history
It seems that the place of origin of wild gourd is between Mexico and Guatemala. Just in Mexico, pumpkin seeds dating back to 7000 BC have been found. Inca, Aztecs and the Maya cultivated and were eating seeds, rich in nutrients, I saw that the fruits were poor pulp. The fleshy fruits fleshy, sweet smelling, we know today, They are the result of crossbreeding and a long work on the varieties. Then, after the discovery of the Americas, pumpkin came together to tomatoes and potatoes to colonize the old Europe. And now, Europe and above all Italy can not do without the pumpkin in the kitchen.
The pumpkin belongs to the family of Cucurbitaceae, like cucumbers, the zucchini, melons and watermelons (considered summer pumpkins with a short shelf life). Italy, along with China, Romania, Egypt, Argentina, Turkey and Japan, It is among the largest producers, especially in the Po Valley. The pumpkin is sown in spring and harvested in late summer: storage is typically very long, although it varies depending on the type.
How to choose and store the pumpkin
The winter squash should be opaque zest, sign that was picked at the right stage of ripeness, no cracks, dark spots or soft areas. Take the pumpkin in hand: It must be heavy compared to the size. Finally, It must still retain a part of the stem, because it slows dehydration. Winter squashes are vegetables that are durable, even six months, but their shelf life differs greatly depending on the type.
Is’ essential to keep pumpkins safe from the cold, from excessive heat and light. The ideal is to store them in an aerated room with a temperature around 15 degrees. You can store in the refrigerator the raw pumpkin cut into pieces and put in frost bags for 2-3 days and you can also freeze it, always been sliced or better cooked, both pieces is reduced to a purée.
The nutritional characteristics of the pumpkin
As all these summer vegetables, pumpkin is done for the most part water (can contain more than 94% of them) and is low in calories. Despite the pulp of the pumpkin, In fact, both sweet, overall it is a low-calorie food with 20-45 calories per 100 grams depending on the type. carbohydrates, and then the sugars, on average i'm just the 3,5%, 1% proteins and fats are almost absent. In return, pumpkin is rich in beta-carotene (not for nothing is orange, like carrots), vitamin and pro vitamin A, C vitamin, B vitamins (folic acid), besides containing essential minerals such as phosphorus, iron, potassium, calcium and magnesium.
Pumpkin seeds are very nutritious and calorie: 100 grams contain about 520 calories, 33% of which are made up of proteins, 42% fat, 13,4% sugars and 13,8% from fiber. The important thing is that the fat content in pumpkin seeds are monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats (Omega 3 and Omega 6), ie the 'good fats'. In the pumpkin seeds are also vitamin E and B and other minerals such as zinc, selenium and magnesium.
To consume and store the pumpkin seeds, Once extracted from the pumpkin and dried with care (do not wash), they must be left to dry for at least one day in the air and then dried in a 180-degree oven, until they become lightly browned. Once cold, you can store pumpkin seeds enclosed in an airtight container and in a cool, dry place.
If you already shelled, the kitchen pumpkin seeds should be consumed in a short time, because the oils inside tend to go rancid. From the seeds is extracted the pumpkin oil.
The beneficial properties
Thanks to its nutritional characteristics, pumpkin has important and recognized benefits on our body. The high amount of beta-carotene contained in the pulp, a natural antioxidant, It plays a protective effect against the onset of tumors. The pulp of the pumpkin has a diuretic effect, It promotes pancreatic action, adjusts the level of blood sugar (why its use is also recommended for diabetics).
Its seeds have a powerful antioxidant effect and play a protective effect of urinary tract but, if you want to consume pumpkin seeds for their contents in Omega 3 and Omega 6, They are to be eaten raw, because the heat harms these fatty acids. For the same reason, the pumpkin seed oil, recommended in case of prostate problems, must be cold extracted. A beneficial effect on prostate and urinary tract also plays a fresh extract from the pumpkin flesh, Cold centrifuged.
The rind of the pumpkin
The rind of the pumpkin is often used in the kitchen, especially in varieties with thin and smooth rind. Is’ possible almost always, except where the peel with large bulges like pumpkin Marina di Chioggia, Cook the pumpkin with the skin and blend it with the pulp. You can also use the peel of the pumpkin to prepare a broth for risotto wetting or lengthen velvety. The peel can also be cut into thin strips before being baked or fried so that it becomes crispy. Varieties with very thick skin, and so hard that it is difficult to cut, is recommended steaming. In this way the skin will soften and will be easy to remove. The bark of some pumpkins can also be candied.
The main varieties
- The variety Cucurbita Maxima, with pumpkins that can reach up to 80 pounds in weight, round and flattened to the apexes, characterized by a greenish rind and yellow-orange pulp, powdery and sweet.
- Cucurbita moschata, smaller, from very different forms (stretched, twisted, Cubic, to cost, smash), greenish or orange and deep orange flesh, sweet and tender.
- The variety Cucurbita Pepo, widespread in North America and similar to Maxima, with which it is often confused. The difference can be seen in the pedicle, that in Pepo it is tough and fibrous, with 5 angular sides, thicker inner pulp and stronger taste. They have smooth, orange zest and weigh no more than 50 kilograms. It is traditionally used carving pumpkins for Halloween.
Within these three main varieties, Winter squashes are extraordinarily differentiated by shape, color, quantity, quality and taste of the flesh. Let's see which are the most common in Italy.
- BUTTERNUT OR VIOLINA (C. Moschata): originating in the USA, It is easily recognizable from the shape, similar to the case of a violin or a large pear, with a more rounded part and a cylindrical and tapered. The bark is smooth, between the orange and the cream (it tends to green it means it is not ripe). Inside, the pulp is very orange (because of the significant amount of beta-carotene and soft, sweet and with a chestnut finish. It has about 45 calories per 100 grams and is ideal for any kind of preparation. Is’ pumpkin used for the preparation of cappellacci by Zucca FerraresiPgi , a pasta stuffed pumpkin Violina, grated cheese, breadcrumbs and nutmeg in the specification coded
- The HOKKAIDO PUMPKIN, native to Japan, Pumpkin is a small, with onion shape and deep orange peel and very thin, edible. It has orange flesh sweet and doughy, from the characteristic of chestnut note. Its ideal use is reduced to a puree to prepare velvety, risotto, creams and desserts. It can be kept much longer.
- KAWAII LADY MINI is a very small pumpkin (a mini pumpkin), maximum weight of 450 grams. It has dark green color and thin skin, tasty, completely edible. Inside has yellow-orange sweet flesh (despite having only 25 calories per 100 grams) and crunchy. Is’ microwave whole cooking recommended (7 minutes) or oven, whole or in wedges, and it can be used for each type of preparation.
- The PUMPKIN DELICA is one of the most sold and most popular pumpkins: of Japanese origin but it is perfectly acclimatized throughout the Po Valley. It has round and flattened shape at the top and reduced dimensions. The skin is dark green with brown grooves and the flesh is orange, sweet, doughy, compact, dry and perfumed. It has a very intense note of chestnut and dried fruit and is perfect for each type of preparation, especially sweet. The BAKING, disidratandola, it further enhances flavor and sweetness.
- TURBAN PUMPKIN: he has, as the name, a particular form: on the pumpkin it is naturally formed a kind of protuberance (a turban). He zest full of irregular bumps, hard and thin, striped green color of orange and yellow pulp orange or golden yellow thick, very sweet, nutty aftertaste. Is’ great for cream, soups, velvety.
- The PUMPKIN PROVENCE MOSCATA is originally from France and is a Cucurbita moschata. Is’ the classic coastal pumpkin that we find in the markets. It slightly flattened shape at the vertices, weight up to 15 kilos, zest cream-orange and deep orange flesh very watery, with long filaments and many seeds, to collect and consume. Despite the high amount of water, over 94%, It has a sweet and savory taste, perfect for velvety or risotto.
- The PUMPKIN CHIOGGIA MARINA is instead a Cucurbita Maxima. Is’ a late pumpkin with a dark green color and is characterized by an extremely lumpy zest, it is better to remove after cooking. It has a rounded shape and flattened at the top and yellow pulp tending to orange, floury and very long-lasting, up to eight months. It has an intense and sweet taste and the kitchen is extremely versatile.
- It looks at the Delica PUMPKIN IRON CUP (Iron Cup), which it was obtained by crossing varieties Maxima and Moschata. It has a thick skin, dark green, orange pulp inside, sweet and savory, perfect for the oven. It has an intense flavor that does not need condiments.
- Instead grown in the Campania PUMPKIN LONG OF NAPLES, where it's called "cucozza pumpkin” and it's Slow Food garrison. It belongs to the species Cucurbita Nutmeg and green skin and deep orange flesh, full, with seeds located in a small cavity in the most extreme part. It can reach 25 kilos in weight. And’ a pumpkin that can also be eaten raw or marinated, well cooked in the oven, steamed or on the grill. It has sweet flesh, perfumed and slightly aqueous. This pumpkin in the kitchen is perfect for PARMIGIANA PUMPKIN, where you put the pumpkin in raw pan.
- In Italy it is very popular and sought the PUMPKIN MANTOVANA, which is a Pat, traditional food product of Lombardy. Is’ indispensable for the preparation of the famous PUMPKIN TORTELLI MANTOVANI and it belongs to the variety Cucurbita Maxima. There are several species, including del Prete Hat, the cornered cap Piacentina, the cornered cap Lungavilla and Bernagnina Dorno. It has dark green, small size, wrinkled rind of green gray color, more or less ribbed and dry pulp, sweet thick and fleshy yellow-orange. Perfect for fillings, velvety, risottos and desserts.