UBCO Executive Chef Shelley Robinson is a big fan of pumpkins and their versatility in the kitchen. (Contributed)

Pumpkins, more than just a jack-o-lantern: UBCO chef

The festive Halloween vegetables are great for side dishes, soups and breads

With Halloween just around the corner, many are getting ready to carve up their festive jack-o-lanterns, but what most people look past is the nutritional side of the pumpkin.

UBCO executive chef Shelley Robinson is a big fan of pumpkins and their versatility in the kitchen. Robinson joined the campus community early this year and wants to rejuvenate the eating experience for students, faculty and staff.

While most people think of pumpkins as key decoration for Halloween, the pumpkin is really just a big squash.

“Pumpkins and squash are one of the same, both belonging to the Cucurbitaceae family,” said Robinson.

“In fact, there are hundreds of types of squash grown globally, all with unique looks and flavour profiles.”

READ MORE: Get more out of your pumpkin this Halloween

Robinson is currently using pumpkin recipes in UBCO food services, using the squash in soups and vegetarian dishes and as side dishes. She said there are many nutritional benefits to eating pumpkins.

“Squash is extremely versatile and can be used in soups, curries, mashed and also used in breads and smoothies. Squash boasts a ton of nutritional benefits. Just a small handful of pumpkin seeds contains 50 per cent of the recommended amount of zinc required in a day, they are high in fibre and low in carbs, making them a great choice for weight loss. The seeds are also high in beta carotene which is an excellent antioxidant.”

A pumpkin that’s great for cooking is a mature pumpkin, according to Robinson.

As they grow in a rather irregular way, they can be misshaped, craggily and gnarly looking, none of which makes them less delicious.

With all the rage this time of year being about pumpkin spice lattes, Robinson recommends a healthy, homemade pumpkin beverage.

“I’m not a fan of sugary drinks. At home, I make a squash ‘nog’ with squash puree. Just add almond milk, half a banana, a pinch of cinnamon, a pinch of allspice, one tablespoon of molasses and blend away.”

UBCO sources their pumpkins locally, which Robinson recommends.

“There are so many local farms selling a huge variety of squash. We work hard to use local seasonal ingredients, both to support our community, and because foods grown close to home just taste better.”

READ MORE: Quails’ Gate Winery to celebrate 30 year anniversary


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