New Zealander’s love pumpkin, with roast pumpkin and pumpkin soup being two of the most loved ways of eating this versatile vegetable.
Native to the Americas and belonging to the general Cucurbitaceae family to which courgettes and summer squash also belong, these hard skinned members can be stored for several months making them a great store cupboard vegetable.
At The Chef’s Garden @ Epicurean we grow a variety of pumpkins and winter squash including butternut, Mariana Di Chioggia, Musquee de Provence, Red Hokkaido, spaghetti squash, triamble and Whangaparoa crown.
Availability: At The Chef’s Garden pumpkins and winter squash start becoming available in late summer and are available through most of winter.
Goes with: bacon; butter; cheese; chickpeas; coconut milk; most herbs; olive oil; onions; many spices – especially cinnamon and nutmeg; and tomatoes.
SELECTION, STORAGE, PREPARATION & USING
Selection: When buying whole pumpkins and winter squash choose those that are firm with undamaged skin. If buying for storage they should be fully matured.
- Butternut: This pumpkin weighing up to 2kg has a pear-like shape, buff to golden-brown skin and bright orange flesh which has a dry texture and is very sweet.
- Marina Di Chioggia: Considered by us and many others to be the best pumpkin you will ever eat, this member of the family is huge, with a single pumpkin weighing in excess of 5kg, hence its botanical name of Cucurbita maxima.
This heirloom pumpkin originates from the Italian coastal town of Chioggia which is situated on a small island in the Lagoon of Venice about 25 kilometres south of Venice and is said to be a miniature Venice.
Also known as ‘sea pumpkin’ it is turban-shaped with a blue-green skin and bright orange, rich, sweet, dry flesh and is an excellent keeper. It is the pumpkin favoured by Italian cooks for making gnocchi and ravioli, but is also excellent roasted and makes an exceptional soup.
- Musquee de Provence: This heirloom variety originating from Southern France is another large pumpkin. It is flattish and lobed and when ripe, the skin is rich brown which can be streaked with blue-green and yellow – a truly spectacular specimen. The flesh is dense, sweet, full-flavoured and terracotta in colour. Another excellent keeper which is one of the best pumpkins for baking or roasting and is much loved for soups and pies.
- Red Hokkaido: Also known as Red Kuri this is a Japanese winter squash with a teardrop shape and golden, smooth, dry, sweet, rich flesh. A smaller pumpkin which because of its size is perfect for stuffing and depending on size will serve two to four.
- Spaghetti Squash: This football-shaped squash has a yellow skin with pale yellow flesh. When cooked can be teased into strands that resemble spaghetti. Single squash usually weigh from 500g to 750g.
- Trimable: With its tough grey blue skin this heirloom ironbark pumpkin can be a challenge to cut. One of the best known varieties in New Zealand, it is a keeper which usually weighs 5-6kg, is lobed like a three leaf clover, hence its name. The sweet orange flesh is fine-grained.
- Whangaparoa Crown: Our own heirloom squash which is more often than not referred to as a pumpkin. Sometimes called New Zealand Crown, it is slightly ridged with a thin, grey skin and a sweet, dry, deep orange flesh which is a favourite for roasting.
Storage: Store whole pumpkins and squash in a cool, airy place – in New Zealand, the garage or garden shed have traditionally been favoured storage places.
Cover cut pumpkin and squash with plastic cling wrap and store in the vegetable drawer of the refrigerator. Remove any cottony, stringy fibres and seeds before storing and use within a couple of days.
Preparation: Care should be taken when cutting hard skinned pumpkins and a large, heavy knife and plenty of muscle is required for some of the larger varieties.
Using: As pumpkins can absorb large quantities of water, most varieties are best steamed or roasted. Cook with skin on or removed depending on personal preference – the skin of thinner skinned varieties such as butternut is edible.
- Spaghetti Squash: This squash can be roasted, whole or halved, steamed or cooked in the microwave until tender. The flesh of this squash is quite watery so avoid adding water.
- Simply Roasted Pumpkin: Preheat oven to 200°C. Cut required quantity of pumpkin into serving size pieces, peel if desired. Drizzle with a little olive oil, sprinkle with 1 teaspoon each of ground cumin and ground coriander, season with a good grind of salt and black pepper and toss to coat pumpkin pieces with oil and seasonings. Bake for 30-45 minutes depending on variety and size of pieces until tender.
- Roast Pumpkin Soup: Roast 2kg of peeled pumpkin pieces as above. Meanwhile, place 1 chopped onion and a little olive oil in a saucepan over a medium heat, cover and cook for 8-10 minutes or until onion is soft and translucent. Add 2 finely chopped cloves of garlic and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds longer. Chop 1 large potato into chunks, add to saucepan and cook, tossing occasionally, for 5 minutes. Pour in 4 cups chicken stock and 2 cups water and bring to the boil, then simmer for 5-10 minutes or until potato is tender. Add roasted pumpkin and bring back to simmering, then blend in batches to make a smooth soup, alternatively use a hand blender. Serve scattered with chopped herbs of your choice. Serves 6-8 as a light meal.
- Satay Spaghetti Squash: Cook 1 spaghetti squash, tease flesh into strands and place in a large bowl. While squash is cooking, julienne a selection of raw vegetables, such as cucumber, carrots, green onions and capsicums. Whisk together ½ cup smooth peanut butter, ⅓ cup teriyaki sauce and a pinch dried red chilli flakes or to taste. Whisk in ½ cup hot water to make a smooth sauce. Add julienned vegetables to squash, then pour over sauce and toss to combine. Serves 4 as a light meal.
- Cheesy Herbed Spaghetti Squash: Cook 1 spaghetti squash, tease flesh into strands and place in a large bowl. Add 1 cup grated cheese of your choice, ½ cup chopped parsley, 1 finely chopped garlic clove, a knob of butter and a good grind of salt and black pepper. Toss to combine. Serves 4 as a light meal or side dish.
- Stuffed Hokkaido Pumpkin: Cut the top off pumpkin and reserve. Scoop out seeds and cottony fibres and discard. Cook 2 chopped onions in oil in a frying pan until soft and translucent. Remove pan from heat, add 250g mince of your choice, 1 cup cooked rice and 1 tsp dried Italian herbs and mix to combine. Season with a good grind of salt and black pepper. Spoon mince mixture into pumpkin, sprinkle with some grated cheese and cover with reserved pumpkin top. Place pumpkin in a baking dish and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour or until pumpkin is tender and filling is cooked through. Stuffing quantities may need to be adjusted depending on size of pumpkin. Serves 2-4.
Recipes using Pumpkins and Winter Squash
- Chicken, Tomato & Pumpkin Stew
- Winter Pumpkin & Fish Stew
- Roasted Harissa Pumpkin
- Pumpkin, Bacon & Tomato Bake
- Warm Squash, Silverbeet & Feta Salad
- Winter Vegetable & Ham Soup
- Spaghetti Squash with Heirloom Tomato Sauce