If you think pumpkins are just for carving jack-o-lantens, then think again because they are actually one of the most nutritious fruits available. With high levels of carotenoids, proteins, antioxidants and vitamin C, the humble pumpkin delivers an impressive punch of health benefits including boosting your mood, keeping your eye sight sharp, helping you recover after a work out, aiding weight loss, lowing cholesterol and boosting your immune system. They are even thought to reduce the risk of cancer.
You may also be surprised to know that China is the world’s largest producer of pumpkins and accounts for nearly half of all global production of the fruit. Whilst China is the top producer, the largest importer of pumpkins is the US, who mainly import their pumpkins from Mexico because, due to their high nutritional value, China actually consumes most of its production.
Pumpkins are an integral part of the recent Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival as eating them is believed to bring people good health. The tradition started in ancient China with poorer families living south of the Yangtze River, choosing to eat pumpkin because they couldn’t afford the elaborately prepared mooncakes.
According to Chinese legend, a poor girl named Huang Hua, lived in the area with her gravely ill parents who were unable to clothe and feed themselves. She came across an ‘oddly shaped melon’ in a field and took it home to feed to her parents. Shortly after eating the pumpkin, the girl’s parents made a miraculous recovery; because the melon was picked near South Mountain, it was named south melon or ‘nangua’ which is the Chinese word for pumpkin.
So if you feel your health could do with a boost, click here to try this delicious Chinese salt and chilli pumpkin recipe.
Whilst shopping for the ingredients it is worth bearing in mind that not all pumpkins are created equal when it comes to their edibility. The much larger pumpkins you find being sold in bulk at the supermarket specifically for Halloween or those at a pumpkin patch aren’t the best for cooking as they tend to be stringy and bland. The best pumpkins, which are sweeter and more flavoursome, are the smaller, smoother varieties which are intended to be eaten and not for jack-o-lanterns. These can be found in most grocers or supermarkets.