Its been a sad week this week as we have eaten the last of the stored winter pumpkins. I have had a foodie affair with pumpkins through this autumn and winter. Pumpkin has always been one of my favourite vegetables. I love it roasted, mashed, as a pasta sauce and of course, as soup. However this pumpkin season I have also been exploring sweet pumpkin dishes. In my view the Americans have perfected the spiced, sweet, pumpkin mixture, used for sweet pumpkin pie, and a host of other sweet pumpkin foods. Thank you America!
Pumpkins are part of the genus cucurbita. This includes cucumber, gourds, melons and squash. Pumpkins are a sub species within the squash family. Technically all pumpkins are squashes but not all squashes are pumpkins. Squashes and pumpkins are generally described as either winter or summer types. The summer types are fast maturing, (around 50 days) have soft rinds, are quite perishable and consumed when the fruit is young. They include courgette or zucchini; patty pan squash, scallop squash, and many more. Winter squashes & pumpkins take longer to mature (one hundred days), have a long storage life (several months versus two weeks), are consumed when the fruits and seeds are fully mature, and have durable hard rinds. Winter pumpkin varieties include Australian butter, jarrahadale, Queensland blue, masque de Provence, heritage varieties of butternut such as wrinkled butternut and so on.
Whether you use the term pumpkin or squash to describe these vegetables primarily depends on the country you are in. In Australia and New Zealand we predominantly use the term pumpkin and rarely use the term squash, while for example in America squash is the predominant term used while pumpkin specifically refers to orange coloured species in this family.
Both summer and winter squashes are grown in the same season. Summer squash receives its name due to the fruit being harvested and consumed in the summer while winter squash or pumpkin is harvested later in the season and if cured properly will store well into winter for winter eating.
There are so many wonderful varieties of pumpkins. We prefer pumpkins that have a firm flesh, a deep colour and strength of flavour. These include buttercup, a smallish deep green pumpkin; pottimarron an orange red pumpkin with a chestnut flavour; Australian butter and jarrahdale both firm fleshed, good storing winter pumpkins.
We ended the Autumn harvest season with around 60 or more pumpkins for winter storage. While we sold a lot of pumpkins it also meant that there was plenty of pumpkin for experimental cooking. For cooking I like firm fleshed pumpkins. Pumpkins can be watery, and for sweet pies you need your pumpkin mix to be quite firm. Baking is a dry method of cooking pumpkin and is the method used for making a sweet spiced pumpkin mix. This years favourite recipes included spiced pumpkin (friendship) cake with a pumpkin cream; sweet pumpkin scones with maple syrup butter and the absolutely fantastic and totally delicious pumpkin ice cream. This culinary delight will be featuring in our next slow food lunch on 24 September, along with other seasonal specialties from the Wynlen House garden. Come and Join us n September 24th for a relaxed meal, great setting, clean produce, meat and preserves grown in our kitchen garden...and pumpkin ice cream! Its the best.
Bronwyn Richards has cared for animals and has been growing vegetables successfully all her adult life. She is principle gardener for Wynlen House Farm