by Kymythy R. Schultze

Question: I love the flavor of pumpkin, but I’m tired of pie! Is there something else I can make with it? Also, I’ve heard that pumpkin is high in something called beta-carotene – is that a good thing?

Answer:  Absolutely! Pumpkins have been used throughout history as both food and medicine and they’re grown almost all over the world, ranging in size from very tiny to giants weighing more than 100 pounds. This winter squash is an excellent source of antioxidants including beta-carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin – compounds that help fight the damaging effect of free radicals that can cause heart disease and cancer.

Pumpkin is a great source of fiber, and may be helpful for vision disorders. It also contains minerals such as potassium, copper, manganese, iron, magnesium, and phosphorus; vitamins A, C, B, and E; and enzymes. It’s often used as a digestive aid for nausea and diarrhea.

If you’re using a fresh whole pumpkin for the following recipe, you can even use the hollowed-out shell as a beautiful bowl!

Great Pumpkin Soup

2 cups pumpkin, peeled and diced (or use canned if fresh isn’t available)

1 1/2 cups unsweetened apple juice

1 cup unsweetened carrot juice

1 avocado, peeled and pitted

1/4 cup raw pumpkin seeds

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 clove garlic

1 teaspoon ginger

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Place all ingredients in a food processor or blender and puree. Serve warm or chilled. Pour into bowls and garnish with a sprinkle of chopped pumpkin seeds. Makes about 4 cups.