North America treat mystifies Europeans

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October through December are prime months for pumpkin pies — a uniquely North American treat that mainly puzzles Europeans.

In fact, expats routinely complain that finding cans of pumpkin in October and November is nearly impossible on the continent. According to The Guardian, Brits never really understood a vegetable-based pudding and pumpkin has never caught on.  In fact, in Europe, most expats end up substituting butternut squash or sweet potatoes for pumpkin.

Nonetheless, North Americans love their pumpkins and it does more than satisfy the taste buds. It wins big time for its nutritional values. A slice of pumpkin pie has up to three times the recommended daily value of beta-carotene  plus the phytonutrients lutein and zeaxanthin.

The carotenoids in pumpkin neutralize harmful free radical molecules, while lutein and zeaxanthin are potent free radical scavengers, according to Rutgers University in Brunswick, N.J. A diet that includes these antioxidants can help prevent many of the diseases associated with aging, including heart disease and cancer.

Lutein and zeaxanthin are naturally found in the lenses of the eyes. Studies suggest that eating foods high in these compounds help block formation of cataracts and decrease the risk of macular degeneration.

Canned pumpkin has virtually the same nutritional value as fresh, and it’s far less work to prepare.

You can make a nutritious pumpkin pie from a can of pumpkin pie mix or two pies from a 16-ounce can of pumpkin (just add your own eggs, sugar, and spices. The recipe is on the can.)

Some tips about pie made from canned pumpkin: If you find your pie cracks in the center or doesn’t hold together well enough, your eggs are probably too small. Use three eggs instead of two.

To reduce the fat content of your pie, (pumpkin itself has no fat) use fat-free canned milk.

If you will use whipped cream as a topping, select fat-free whipped cream at the supermarket for a flavor that’s still very good.

For more intense flavor from pumpkin pie mix, add a bit of extra spice and a tablespoon of brown sugar.

For more daring pie, put in three tablespoons of rum.

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