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Happy … um … Belated Pumpkin Day. No, that is not a swinging new name for Halloween. October 26 was indeed Pumpkin Day. What other outlandish gourd deserves its own commemorative day? Yes? Yes—you, sir.
Aww … no, sorry. The Lagenaria siceraria to which you refer is simply too eccentric and bottle-like to have its own commemorative day. Anyone else? Yes, you in the ghastly green argyle sweater.
“My life partner made me wear this.”
I’ve no doubt. Did you have a gourd you wanted to elevate?
“The Sponge gourd?”
No, sorry. Too —
Anyone else? Anyone? And if you were going to volunteer the Snake gourd you can put your fool hand down right now. [several raised hands slowly lower and disappear into the crowd].
Yes, dear people. Only the Pumpkin rates its own special day. This is a gourd with which we are all familiar, of course! But do you know why the Pumpkin is such a big deal? (grumbling and shuffling from the bored and restive crowd). Welll! The reasons are obvious.
Your Slimed Forearm
“When you think “Pumpkin Seed”, what comes most immediately to mind? If you’re like most people in the occasionally odd Western World, what comes to mind is plunging your hand into the hole carved atop a big orange gourd and grabbing a fistful of disgusting muck. What’s not to like?
Pumpkin seeds—and the unnervingly stringy stuff they’re suspended in—are the junk you need to yank out of the pumpkin before you can make either a jack o’ lantern or pumpkin pie. But we’re here to tell you that there is more to the pumpkin than a slimed forearm.
Pumpkin Power: Holy Molybdenum!
The pumpkin seed packs a powerful punch. Comprised of about 60% protein, this vibrant little ovoid is jammed with zinc, manganese, magnesium, copper, phosphorous, potassium, and iron. “What about molybdenum”, you ask. Yes, the pumpkin seed has all the molybdenum you seek, so those free radicals that would otherwise be messing with your healthy cells are going to get the “Molybdenum Beatdown”, to use the biochemical terminology. Your cells thank you.
Pumpkin seeds help metabolize toxins, giving them the bum’s rush through the kidneys and out, and they even help metabolize drugs that enter the system, seeing to it that any unused pharma is pulled out of the ingestion line and directed to the urinary express.
And remember learning that it’s the Tryptophan in Thanksgiving turkey that causes you to fall asleep with your face in the mashed potatoes? Well, because pumpkin seeds are L-Tryptophan-rich, consumption of whole pumpkin seeds can be a partial solution, not to mention a mediator of some symptoms of menopause—the headaches, hot flashes, and joint pain.
Your heart? A couple of grams of the alpha-linolenic acid present in pumpkin seeds has been shown to have a positive push-back effect on coronary heart disease. And research continues in the effectiveness of certain pumpkin seed extracts in the battle against melanomas. The pumpkin is more than a signifier of autumn's onset/large orange ball with ridges. The phytochemicals and bioactive compounds in this thing give it serious therapeutic power.
Okay. Seed schmeed. Let’s give a once-over to the rest of this unwieldy gourd.
There are a couple words you rarely see in the same room, right? You’re welcome! Look, pumpkins are considered decorative seasonal tchotchkes in western culture, harbingers of a change in season.
Fall arrives, the leaves change color, there is a faint, fragrant chill in the air, the winter days begin to suggest themselves in a slanting bath of honey-colored light. Whaddya do? You go to the pumpkin patch, you place pumpkins on the porch, you imbibe in pumpkin spice confections that pretend to be coffee or tea.
And in anticipation of the inexplicable but enjoyable Halloween, you hollow out a pumpkin with wincing and mild revulsion, carve a face in the poor thing and sticking a dime store candle in there. Voila.
What’s truly weird is that some cultures actually think of a pumpkin as a nutraceutical big shot? How’d we miss that memo?
Pumpkin: Your Nutraceutical Friend
In fact, the charitably named “fruit” of the pumpkin — meaning its flesh, peel, and seeds (if you dare imagine picking the thing up and eating it), is a cornucopia jammed with proteins, carbs, tocopherols (vitamin E), sterols, tryptophan (mood moderation), carotenoids, monounsaturated fatty acids, polyunsaturated fatty acids, and many other phytochemicals.
Many cultures have the wisdom to use the pumpkin as a functional food, parsing its nuisance pulp for the good stuff that helps the human body flourish.
So the next time you are up to your elbow in pumpkin innards, remember the pure healing power of the awful gunk you’re grasping in there. And if that doesn’t help, just wince and gag a little. You know the drill.