UBCO executive chef explains why pumpkins are truly great

October 23, 2019

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

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

The orange, edible squash adds nutrition to side dishes, soups and breads

UBC Okanagan’s Executive Chef Shelley Robinson joined the campus community earlier this year. She is committed to creating healthy choices for all meals and has rejuvenated the eating experience for students, faculty and staff. Along with spicing up the food options on campus, she is keenly aware of the importance of sustainable, locally sourced and certified Fairtrade food products. A TV and radio personality, Robinson has won Chopped Canada and competed in Top Chef Canada. Co-author of several cookbooks, she is a seasoned culinary veteran and one of Canada’s most renowned chefs.

With Halloween just around the corner, UBC Okanagan’s top chef talks about pumpkins and explains that there’s more to the jack-o-lantern that meets the eye.

While we mostly think of pumpkins as a key decoration for Halloween, some are edible. What are the nutritional benefits of eating pumpkins?

Pumpkins and squash are one and the same—both belonging to the cucurbitaceae family. In fact, there are 100s of types of squash grown globally, all with unique looks and flavour profiles. And squash boast 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.

Other than pumpkin pie and roasted seeds, what are some other suggestions for eating a pumpkin?

Squash is extremely versatile and can be used in soups, stews, curries, mashed and also used in breads and smoothies. I recently made an amazing squash bread with honey and currants. YUM!

Are you currently using pumpkin recipes in UBCO food services?

Yes. We use lots of squash in soups and vegan/vegetarian dishes and as side dishes. Our newly opened retail operations Spoon and Rocket both feature a number of healthy options using squash.

How would you go about choosing a ripe pumpkin for cooking?

Squash are typically very firm and have a thick dry skin, once they mature. As they are grown in a rather irregular way, they can be misshaped, craggily and gnarly looking—none of which makes them less delicious.

Do you source local pumpkins at UBCO?

Absolutely! 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.

Pumpkin spice lattes are all the rage this time of year. Do you have a recipe for 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 (or any other milk you choose), half a banana, a pinch of cinnamon, a pinch of allspice, one tablespoon of molasses and blend away!

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Patty Wellborn
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UBC Okanagan
Tel: 250 317 0293
E-mail: patty.wellborn@ubc.ca

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