Jamaican Pumpkin Soup is a traditional Saturday hearty soup/ stew which is cooked in most households. My Jamaican Ital Pumpkin Soup is a perhaps less authentic that a typical Pumpkin Soup. However this vegetarian version is reasonably authentic in that it follows the Ital style of Rastafarian cooking.
Jamaican Pumpkin Soup is typically made with chicken or beef, flour dumplings, vegetables and ground provisions. Ground provisions, in the Caribbean, refers to starchy vegetables that grown and dug up from the soil or “under the ground”. Ground provisions include vegetables like yams, sweet potates, cassava/ tapioca, potatoes, and taro/ Chinese potatoes (arbi). The other vegetables usually used in this soup include pumpkins, carrots, breadfruit, raw bananas or plantain and cho cho/ christophine/ chayote.
Rastafarians (think Bob Marley) in Jamaica are vegetarian and believe this is healthy and spiritually connects them to the earth. Food should be natural, organic and from the earth, and so they avoid processed foods and meat. Their cuisine/ diet is called Ital food. The word ital. is derived from the English “vital”.
Jamaican Ital Pumpkin Soup is characterized by being vegetarian and typically, the use of coconut milk. It can be made without coconut milk too. Any mix of vegetables can be used beyond pumpkin. Carrot, sweet potato, cho-cho, yam, raw banana, corn and callaloo (amaranth leaves) and shredded cabbage are also used. Fresh herbs like parsley, thyme or basil are also used.
Jamican Pumpkin Soup is made with a variety of pumpkin called Calabaza Squash/ Pumpkin. This is the same as the Indian green striped/ striated pumpkin that’s orange yellow inside. It tends to be slightly sweet and is very rich in beta carotene.
People in the Caribbean like their food quite spicy and many versions of this soup are traditionally cooked using Scotch Bonnet peppers. If using the scotch bonnet pepper ensure that the pepper doesn’t burst in the pot unless you plan to turn into a fire breathing dragon!
You’ll know that though I’m not a big fan of soups, the ones I like tend to be more of the hearty filling kind. This pumpkin soup definitely belongs in that category, and is one of its kind.
Jamaican Ital Pumpkin Soup
- 2 tbsp groundnut/ peanut oil
- 1 large red onion chopped fine
- 1/2 tbsp minced fresh ginger
- 1 tsp minced garlic
- 1 fresh green chili minced
- 2 stalks celery chopped
- 2 spring onions chopped
- 2 large potatoes cubed
- 1/3 small to medium pumpkin cubed
- 2 medium carrots cut into rounds
- 1/4 cup sweet corn kernels
- 1/3 cup thinly shredded cabbage
- 2 cups vegetable stock or water
- 1 tsp cumin powder
- 1/4 tsp turmeric powder
- Salt to taste
- 3/4 tsp ground nutmeg
- 3/4 cup thick coconut milk
- Heat the oil in large pot. Sauté the onions, ginger, garlic and green chilli till soft and the raw smell disappears. Add the remaining vegetables to the pot and sauté for about 5 minutes.
- Add the vegetable stock or water, cumin and turmeric powders, and salt. Bring it to the boil, then turn down the heat. Let the mixture simmer until the vegetables are all cooked well and the pumpkin is disintegrating. Stir in the nutmeg and then the thick coconut milk making sure it doesn’t split.
- Take the soup off the heat. Transfer to individual serving bowls, and serve hot garnished with chopped spring onions and chopped fresh coriander.