For those who think that there are no holidays between Sukkot and Hanukkah, then it turns out that there were those who celebrated here at the beginning of the week a holiday that is not obvious in Israel, this is Halloween – Halloween. Similar to Valentine’s Day, which was brought to Israel and in recent years many have celebrated it, so too have Halloween been adopted here.
The origin of Halloween is in the Irish tradition. Immigrants brought her to America, so it is celebrated by Christians in the United States and some European countries, especially in the United Kingdom. That day the kids – and not just them – wear scary costumes and make a pumpkin lantern.
The pumpkin is a prominent feature of the holiday, and in recent weeks in America and Europe there has been a revival of the pumpkin, which is sold in various sizes and adorns the entrances of homes. The pumpkin is kept for weeks without refrigeration, and the weather at this time of year is another contribution to its preservation.
The pumpkin is the basis for various dishes served on the holiday table, and this is an opportunity for us to illuminate it from the outside and not just from the inside in the small light of the lantern.
A little botany
Pumpkin is an annual plant and belongs to the gourd family, which also includes zucchini, cucumbers, watermelons and melons. There are different varieties of pumpkin: their large weight range – 18-36 kg; Their shape – spherical, elongated or ovoid; And their color – the classic and familiar orange, and there are also darker or lighter shades.
We are not satisfied with just the “meat” of the pumpkin, which is usually cooked. Even the pumpkin blossom is edible, stuffed with cheese or served raw. Pumpkin seeds are an addition to cold salads and are eaten as nuts. Botanically the pumpkin is a fruit, but nutritionally it is considered a vegetable.
Apart from the tradition of using the pumpkin in order to ward off evil spirits on Halloween, pumpkin has been used in folk medicine as a remedy for a number of ailments. Different cultures around the world have used pumpkin seeds for gout healing, impotence, a variety of bladder problems and prostate diseases. Pumpkin nose has been recommended for removing freckles and curing the side effects of snake bites. Also used pumpkin oil to prevent dryness in the scalp and hair.
Some of these benefits have been examined from a scientific point of view and will be expanded upon immediately. But even without the health promises the pumpkin is known for its nutritional density. That is, a high nutritional value relative to a low caloric value.
The pumpkin contains about 90% water. It is a source of dietary fiber that helps the feeling of satiety and proper functioning of the digestive system. One cup of pumpkin has about 3 grams of dietary fiber. The recommendation is to consume 25-38 grams of fiber a day, depending on age.
The pumpkin also contains iron and is therefore particularly suitable for vegetarians. However, keep in mind that iron of plant origin is absorbed in the body in the presence of vitamin C. Pumpkin also contains this vitamin, but vitamin C is sensitive to heat and prolonged cooking is mostly destroyed. Therefore, alongside the cooked pumpkin, a fresh salad or seasoning with lemon juice will provide the vitamin needed to improve the absorption of iron.
Pumpkin is rich in vitamin A, which is important for vision, especially at night, for normal cell growth and a strong immune system. The vitamin A content of pumpkin is derived from the richness of carotenoids, which are a group of organic pigments that give pumpkin as well as other vegetables and fruits their orange-yellow color. One of the derivatives of vitamin A is beta-carotene. Beta-carotene has been widely studied, and studies suggest that it may help protect against cancer, as an anti-inflammatory and improve the appearance of the skin.
The chilly weather encourages the addition of soup to the menu, in restaurants and of course at home as well. Orange soup seems to be one of the most popular. The recipe varies from kitchen to kitchen but usually the base is pumpkin, which is joined by onions, carrots, parsley root and spices. The taste, the easy preparation, the lack of ingredients, the fact that a pot of soup can last for several days and of course the feeling of satiety that accompanies the soup at a meal – are good reasons to consume it often.
Pumpkin seeds, called “white seeds,” offer their own benefits. They contain omega 6 fatty acids as well as tryptophan, an amino acid that helps the body produce serotonin that affects emotions associated with a good mood. The seeds contain unsaturated fatty acids that contribute to heart health, vitamins like vitamin K, which is important for blood clotting and bone tissue.
Pumpkin seeds also contain minerals, the most prominent of which is zinc. Zinc is essential for every cell in the body, especially the skin cells, and plays an important role in wound healing.
The nutritional benefits associated with the enjoyment of cracking kernels of various types are joined by the recommendation to choose those that are without added salt (sodium), which is especially harmful in cases of high blood pressure. In general, the average sodium intake per day is high in relation to the recommended amount, so its consumption should be reduced as much as possible.
Researchers have also examined the potential health benefits of pumpkin seed oil, which is rich not only in zinc but also in vitamin E and magnesium, and seems to have a good effect on the functioning of the body’s urinary and reproductive systems, especially the prostate.
And it is impossible not to mention the dolorita, which also belongs to the gourd family. Some people mistakenly refer to the dolorita as the “lean” sister of the pumpkin, the one that contributes fewer calories. But in fact, the name given to Dolorit is a marketing name. Perhaps surprising, but in relation to pumpkin its caloric contribution is not small. Both contribute varied nutrients and it is recommended to include them in the menu.