Pumpkins are one of the best things about fall. From making jack-o-lanterns for Halloween, to pumpkin spice lattes, to festive pumpkin pies, we love this superstar squash. As you head to the pumpkin patch, here are some important (and surprising) things you should know.
1. Pumpkins Are High in Nutrition
Pumpkins are low in calories, fat, and sodium, while high in fiber. They’re a good source of vitamin A, vitamin B, potassium, protein, and iron. They also contain free-radical-scavenging antioxidants, which can give your health a much-needed boost during the holiday season.
2. Pumpkin Seeds Are Also Nutritious
Just how nutritious are pumpkin seeds? Let me count the ways. Pumpkin seeds are packed with magnesium, zinc, and Omega-3 fats. They contain tryptophan for restful sleep, are good for prostate health, and aid in reducing menopausal symptoms. Pumpkin seeds have both anti-diabetic and anti-inflammatory effects, and are good for the liver and the heart. Pumpkin seeds are also excellent for those suffering with intestinal parasites. Because they’re portable and don’t require refrigeration, they make great travel snacks for the car, the office, or a day of adventuring.
3. Plant Your Own Pumpkins
After you’ve carved out your scary jack-o-lantern face, save your seeds to plant the following year. Pumpkin seeds should be planted between the last week of May and the middle of June.They take roughly 120 days to grow, and are picked in October. Watching your pumpkin patch grow is a great way to teach your kids how to garden, and how to care for the environment. Pumpkins, when planted in non-organic gardening soil, can also help start the clean-up process of your soil if you’re aiming to plant a chemical-free garden the following spring.
4. Choose Organic Pumpkins
Many organizations claim pumpkins are relatively safe because of their thick skin. However, most of the chemicals used in pumpkin production are systemic, therefore the chemicals are in the pumpkin flesh and will not wash off of your pumpkin. In 2014, California pumpkin farmers dumped close to 14,000 pounds of malathion to meet the supply of Halloween pumpkins. Malathion is a suspected endocrine disrupter, cholinesterase inhibitor, and a possible carcinogen. Buying an organic pumpkin is easy, and tells next year’s pumpkin farmers that they need to grow organic!
5. Compost Your Pumpkins!
Don’t throw your pumpkin in the trash after Halloween or Thanksgiving, compost it. Doing so will provide future nutrients to your garden soil. For a conventional pumpkin, recycle it into your yard waste pile so that it doesn’t end up in a landfill.
6. Buy Edible Pumpkins
Reduce, re-use, and recycle! When you buy edible pumpkins you can use the pumpkin flesh to make pies and soups, the core to make a decoration like a jack-o-lantern, and you get to eat the seeds. The smell of homemade pumpkin pie always whips my taste buds into a flurry. If pumpkin pie isn’t your thing, there are hundreds of delicious recipes, from chili to pumpkin smoothies, to use the remaining pumpkin flesh in!
Pumpkin can be a fun, nutritious addition to your fall routine. Armed with this information, you’ll be able to get the most out of your pumpkins.
Michael Kanter is a writer, culinary enthusiast, poet, photographer, father, and a certified yoga instructor with a passion to serve and a tendency to empower those around him. This article was originally published on NaturallySavvy.com.