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The Sweet Proliferation of Pumpkin!

By Staff in Food on Oct 29, 2010 3:00PM

PumpkinProlif.jpg When it comes to autumn fruit, the pumpkin is king. From the flickering grins of jack-o-lanterns on Halloween to the mouth-watering pumpkin pies that grace many a Thanksgiving table, the rotund squash is ubiquitous at this time of year. Not only is the pumpkin festive-looking and delicious to eat, but it is also healthy for our bodies and for our state's economy. Grab your carving knives folks, it's time to celebrate and Illinois is pumpkin central!

The exact origins of the pumpkin are unknown. Its wide appeal as a foodstuff, however, knows few geographic boundaries. From North America to Europe, Asia, and even Africa, the pumpkin is enjoyed for its flavor and nutritional value. High in lutein and both alpha and beta carotene, virtually every part of the pumpkin is edible. Everything but the vines and roots can find its way to the table. Purees, pies, toasted seeds, and stews are just a few popular ways people enjoy pumpkin.

What many folks do not know is the importance of pumpkins to our local economy. Nearly all of the pumpkin that is processed for consumption in America is grown right here in Illinois. The next time you sink your teeth into a tasty slice of pumpkin pie, chances will be good that you are also sinking a little money into Illinois farms! Luckily, there are some great options right here in the city to help satisfy your pumpkin cravings. Here are a few worth savoring:

  • Hackneys - This venerable local chain serves up a mean slice of pumpkin pie. It's homemade taste and ample portions are simply delicious. While there, raise a glass of New Holland Brewing's seasonal Ichabod Pumpkin Ale. Slightly hoppy and with subtle hints of pumpkin and spice, it will make you grin like a jack-o-lantern! Six Chicagoland locations.
  • Jamba Juice - Clear out the cobwebs inside you with a refreshing Pumpkin Smash smoothie. A creamy blend of pumpkin purée, frozen yogurt and spices, it's like taking a big ol' sip of grandma's pumpkin pie. Sweet and satisfying! 13 local locations.
  • Bobtail Ice Cream - Locally owned and crafted, Bobtail Ice Cream is a year-round favorite. The featured flavor this time of year is - you guessed it - pumpkin. Try a scoop and indulge your taste buds with a little creamy, cool autumn bliss. It glides over the tongue with pumpkinny goodness! Two local locations.
  • Chicago Diner - With vegan flair, the Chicago Diner features a flavorful pumpkin ravioli on its fall menu. Pumpkin-filled pasta shells are served in a savory butternut squash sauce and topped with sweet, roasted apples and onions. Seasonal and satisfying, it is a warm and delicious shot of autumn to the tummy. 3411 N. Halsted.
  • Starbucks Coffee - Say what you will about the king of coffee chains, but Starbucks clearly knows what its customers crave this time of year. Pumpkin is on the menu and is a big seller. Their Pumpkin Spice Latte, with hints of cinnamon and nutmeg, is a tasty and comforting way to start any fall day. For a little decadence, treat yourself to their Pumpkin Cream Cheese muffin. Its bold pumpkin and spice flavor is complemented sweetly by the cream cheese filling.

The next time you are feeling peckish, try a little something with pumpkin. It tastes great, befits the season, is good for you, and it supports local agriculture. What more could you ask for? Ok, well maybe a little whipped cream to top it off!

Photo by DamianD23.

By John DiGilio