THE KING OF VEGETABLES?
The humble pumpkin, along with its cousin Squash, is one of the most versatile and widely eaten fruiting vegetables in the world with an amazing range of varieties, shapes and colours.
The word pumpkin originates from the word pepon which is Greek for “large melon". The French adapted this word to pompon, which the British changed to pumpion and later American colonists changed that to the word we use today, pumpkin.
Most pumpkin and squash species originated in Mexico, Central and South America with archaeological diggings uncovering evidence of them up to 30,000 years ago. It wasn’t until the New World explorers of the 16th and 17th Centuries brought them back to Europe (along with peppers, tomatoes and potatoes) that the varieties you know today began to be selected out and bred. Initially they lacked flavour and taste and were high in fibre so were relegated to stock feed for cattle and pigs, a far cry from what you do with them these days.
Pumpkin and Squash can be split into four groups:
Pumpkin is the name used in NZ, UK and Europe for hard skinned varieties. Traditionally pumpkin is eaten in the USA as a sweet not savoury dish, in the UK as cattle feed, in Europe they eat the flowers, seeds and the flesh.
Winter Squash is the name used in USA for hard skinned varieties. These include Butternuts and Buttercups.
Summer Squash is the name used in the USA for soft skinned varieties. These have no storage properties, will go soft and mushy after a short time and include zucchini, scallopini (Italian) and courgette (French).
Marrow is a separate variety again. It is NOT an overgrown summer squash!
The focus of this blog is on just Pumpkin and Winter Squash, both from the Cucurbita genus belonging to the family of Cucurbitaceae.
There are several species within the Cucurbita genus:
Curcurbita pepo, Cucurbita maxima & Cucurbita moschata
So what is the difference between these three cucurbita species?
It comes down to the shape and nature of the leaves – round or palm shaped, prickly or less so.
Cucurbits are also known as the “easy” species because they cross pollinate easily due to the upward facing male flowers which “shoot” pollen into the air.
Different cucurbit species will not cross pollinate – for example Cucurbita pepo with Cucurbita maxima
The same species WILL cross pollinate – Cucurbita pepo with another Cucurbita pepo. To prevent cross pollination within the NEXT generation, isolate your sowings by either time or distance - sow either at least one month or a great distance apart!
Kings Pumpkin & Winter Squash Varieties:
Acorn: Thelma Sanders Sweet Potato
Buttercup/Kabocha: Burgess Buttercup, Confection, Jade, Sunshine, Winter Sweet
Butternut: Babynut, Big Chief Butternut,
Butternut Chieftain, Honeynut, Waltham Butternut
Cheese: Long Island Cheese, Musquee de Provence
Competition: Atlantic Giant, Show Winner
Edible Seed: Austrian Oil Seed, Baby Bear
Ironbark: Marina di Chioggia, Queensland Blue, Triamble
Mini: Baby Bear, Small Sugar
Other Heirlooms: Australian Butter, Autumn Harvest, Beretta Piacentina, Jarrahdale, Kumi Kumi, Pink Banana Jumbo, Rouge Vif d’Etampes
Harvesting & Using Your Pumpkins & Winter Squash
Harvest approximately 120 days from transplant when the skin is hard and the wick is beginning to dry off.
Remove the plant from the vine without removing the wick - leave this on to aid maturing in storage.
The fruit will have a darker, sweeter flesh if left to cure once picked.
Store in a well ventilated spot. An old wire wove bed base off the ground is perfect for storing pumpkins.
These humble vegetables can be used in all sorts of ways. Have you thought of these?
Cheesecake, Crème brulee, Ice cream
Layer cake with lemon cheese icing
Roasted and spiced hull-less pumpkin seeds
Sauteed Pumpkin/Squash shoots and tendrils
Stuffed blossom tempura style
And to finish, a couple of recipes for you to try:
ROASTING PUMPKIN SEEDS:
Do not throw away the seeds that you have scraped from inside your pumpkin – Roast them! Clean them first by rinsing and leave to dry. Toss the seeds with a little vegetable oil and spread them out on an oven tray. Bake at a moderate heat (180C) for 30 minutes until golden brown stirring and turning every 5-10 minutes. Season to taste, cool and store in an air tight jar. Delicious!!
Cream together 50g butter and ¼ cup castor sugar.
Slowly add one lightly beaten egg.
Stir in 1 cup cooked, mashed, cooled pumpkin.
Add 2 ½ cups Self Raising flour and ½ tsp cinnamon.
Use a little milk as necessary to make a scone dough.
Cook 200 degrees C for about 15 minutes.
Smaller ones I cooked for 13, large may take 16?
Just check when you think they’re looking right.
Pumpkin Spice Cake
Long Island Cheese