November 1, 2011 @ 12:55 PM

What is the great pumpkin secret?

It's a 9,000 year old native of North America used as food and medicine by Native Americans. The early colonists adapted quickly and filled small pumpkins with milk, honey and spices before baking them in smoldering embers - the original pumpkin pie.

Pumpkins are thought of as vegetables but are actually fruits belonging to the squash family along with gourds, cucumbers and melons. Pumpkin squash are planted in July and harvested September through November, and can be stored all winter. Every part of this winter squash is edible: flowers, leaves, vines, skin, seeds and flesh. Recipes for each can be found on the web, even YouTube.

The most common pumpkin product sold is canned pumpkin puree. Pumpkin seeds and pumpkin oil are often in specialty food stores. Vines and leaves might be found at a local farmers market. Pumpkin can be used in a variety of dishes, including seed milk, a healthy alternative to dairy.

Pumpkins aren't among the top ten food allergens in the US, but it does occur, as does pumpkin sensitivity and intolerance. People and pets can react to the pumpkin flesh, its seeds, or even its salicylates.

Salicylates are naturally occurring chemicals found in many plants, including pumpkins, that act as a natural protector against insects, fungi, and bacteria. Salicylate is found just under the plants protective skin and is most potent when fruits are not ripe. Salicyate sensitive individuals should avoid canned pumpkin and make their own pumpkin puree or use a substitute food instead. TIP: You might be salicylate sensitive if you are sensitive to common home/office chemicals.

If you're sensitive to pumpkins, you can substitute acorn squash, butternut squash or sweet potato, as a replacement in all recipes. You can even begin the habit of toasting and milking all your squash seeds year round instead of putting them out with the trash.

The oldest known pumpkin existed about 7,000 B.C. in Mexico, but you can probably find a fresher one at your local grocery store.

Nerissa Oden has studied food sensitivities since 2007 when she experienced a radical health recovery just by changing her diet to match her food sensitivity test results. Testimonials and FAQ are on her website,