Is orange the new green? Of course it probably isn’t; it just seems that way because so many fresh vegetables come in beta-carotene orange—sweet potatoes, carrots, cantaloupe, butternut and other winter squash, tomatoes, pumpkin, apricots, peaches, mangoes, and oranges. That designation covers all the related yellow foods as well—corn, eggs, bananas, peppers, summer squash and variations of some mentioned above.
I see so many recipes these days using these vegetables and fruits for more than their color. Pretty is as pretty does and orange, yellow and red foods do a lot of good to lower the risk of many chronic diseases. One star in this category is pumpkin because it supplies much more than the daily recommended intake of alpha and beta carotenes and vitamin A.
Carotenoids have shown great promise in many health and disease fighting areas. Heart disease, colon cancer and lung disease are other places where studies have shown the very powerful antioxidant properties of carotenoids. They are credited with slowing the aging process as well. When it comes to food, I know you’ve always heard that “fresh is best,” but in the case of pumpkin, canned is just as nutritious.
There are many ways to use pumpkin, which is actually a fruit, and its close relatives. Most people think that hard winter squashes like acorn, hubbard, turban, buttercup or butternut taste alike or are tasteless, but this is far from true. You need to experiment with each variety though. Pumpkin and sweet potatoes make great sides and pies, acorn and other squash are great stuffed, and big hubbards make super vessels. No matter how you cook them, eating them will give you the nutrition you need.
For many years I made this pumpkin bread for my family and for demonstrations and other events. It continues to be popular. It is so good that I have to make it in big batches to freeze since it is one of those rare foods that actually taste better after freezing.
½ cup oil
1-1/2 cup sugar
1 cup canned pumpkin
1-1/4 cup white flour
¾ cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon baking powder
½ cup raisins
½ cup walnuts (optional)
½ teaspoon each: allspice, cinnamon, ground cloves, nutmeg
Set oven temperature to 350 degrees. Grease a long thin loaf pan. Mix sugar, oil, pumpkin, eggs and 1/3 cup of water in a medium to large bowl. Mix dry ingredients together and add to pumpkin mixture, stir until moistened. Pour into loaf pan and bake for one hour, then cool thoroughly.
Serving suggestion: Dish it up cold with cream cheese spread on top.
Dale Carson, Abenaki, is the author of three books: “New Native American Cooking,” “Native New England Cooking” and “A Dreamcatcher Book.” She has written about and demonstrated Native cooking techniques for more than 30 years. Dale has four grown children and lives with her husband in Madison, Connecticut.