Hello, good to meet you, come on in.
You know we carried Cinderella to the Ball, have been turned into Jack O’Lanterns for Halloween, are renowned for our scone making ability and win prizes for you by growing enormously big – yes, we’re the versatile pumpkin and pleased to make your acquaintance.
Did you know that we’re closely related to cucumbers, squashes and melons. No? Well we are, but there are some differences between the family groups. For instance, we’re normally hard-shelled whereas the squashes have softer skin, but even among the pumpkin family there are exceptions which make it very confusing to know which of us is which. Let me explain.
We come in many different shapes and sizes. Our skin is often smooth, glossy, with distinct, rounded ribs or segments. However, some of us are not ribbed; some have a warty or rough skin; some are round or oblong; some are as small as a tennis ball, whilst others are as big or bigger than a soccor ball.
Our flesh is usually yellowish-orange, firm, moist and at our centre is a mass of flat seeds.
We’re available all year round.
We’re sold by variety or colour in Australia, however, grey pumpkins are usually not sold by variety.
We’re a typical grey pumpkin being big, heavily ribbed, with a smooth grey skin and orange flesh. Other grey pumpkins are Jarrahdale, Baby Blue and Ironbark.
We’re an attractive, squat, ribbed pumpkin with grey-green skin mottled with yellow and brown. Our flesh is sweet, nutty and yellowish orange.
We’re another popular pumpkin, elongated and bell-shaped with smooth creamy-brown skin and orange flesh.
We’re 8-10cm across, round, flat-topped with ivory skin with dark green stripes. Our flesh is light yellow.
We’re small and round with deep orange skin and golden yellow flesh.
Smaller varieties are also becoming popular. These are often about the size or slightly larger than a baseball.
Our parent plant is a vigorous vine which has small, snake-like tendrils which cling for support to anything it encounters as it runs all over the ground. It produces separate male and female yellow flowers and there are approximately four male flowers to every female flower on each plant. Pollination, which is the transfer of pollen from male to female flowers, is carried out by bees and other flying insects.
We’re grown from seeds that are generally sown in January or February. It takes up to 24 weeks for our parent plants to mature and grow fruit ready to harvest.
We rest on the ground as we grow and it’s best to allow us to mature on the vine and then harvest us when the vine has completely died off.
Select those of us with hard, thick skin which feel heavy for our size. If cut, look for bright yellow-orange flesh which has a sweet, nutty aroma.
Jarrahdale/Queensland Blue will store on the vine for up to seven months over winter. Butternuts store for a maximum of four months. Storage is shorter during warmer weather.
Once harvested and taken home you can store us whole in a cool, dark, well-ventilated place for up to 2 months. Wrap cut pumpkin in plastic wrap and store in refrigerator for up to 7 days.
We originated from the Americas with different varieties occurring in different places.
What you call pumpkin or ‘winter squash’ came from South America whilst, another group, including the Butternut, came from Central America around Mexico. Evidence exists that the use of this latter group in Mexico and Peru dates back to around 3400 BC.
We spread into Asia and Europe from the Americas with nomadic tribes and early explorers. We were brought to Australia by early white settlers and we have grown in popularity ever since.
Our flesh is quite sweet, making us suitable for both sweet and savoury dishes. Leaving the skin on or off depends on how we are to be cooked. Remove our seeds and cut us into pieces or stuff and bake whole, especially the smaller varieties like the Golden Nugget.
You can boil, saute, steam, deep-fry or microwave us. Serve as a vegetable, add us to soups, pies or casseroles. Our shell can be used as a unique serving dish, especially for soup and rice dishes.
Here are some recipes that may give you some ideas:
Combine 300ml cooked, mashed pumpkin, 75g brown sugar, 300ml evaporated milk, 60ml milk, 2 lightly beaten eggs, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon ginger and 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves. Pour into baked pastry case and bake at 200ÌC for 10 minutes, then 150ÌC for 45 minutes or until filling set.
Mix 50g flour, 1/2 teaspoon baking powder and one egg with enough water or milk to make a batter. Dip thin slices of pumpkin in batter. Fry in hot oil until golden. Serve hot dusted with icing sugar and cinnamon. A special treat.
Sweet Baked Butternut Pumpkin
Cut butternut pumpkin into pieces, with skin on. Place on a greased baking tray. Drizzle with melted butter and maple syrup seasoned with cinnamon. Bake 190ÌC until pumpkin is tender, about 30-50 minutes.
Pumpkin seeds make an excellent snack or garnish. Wipe 1 cup seeds clean and toss in 1 tablespoon each oil and melted butter. Spread out on a baking sheet and bake at 180ÌC for 30 minutes, shaking occasionally, until browned. Cool and serve as a snack with salt.