Q: How did pumpkins become associated with Halloween?

While they may have started out as cattle-fodder, nowadays the pumpkin features widely in kitchens due to their versatility, shelf-life and cost-efficiency. To meet year-round demand pumpkins are grown in every state of Australia, however nigh on three quarters of the pumpkins consumed domestically are produced in NSW or QLD. In 2010 the Food Service industry accounted for around 17% of fresh pumpkin sales, that equates to a healthy 16,743 tonnes.

The fruit (or culinary vegetable) that Australian’s refer to as ‘pumpkins’ are actually a mix of pumpkins and winter squash from three different species of the Cucurbita genus: Cucurbita Maxima (Jarrahdale, Queensland Blue, Golden Nugget), Cucurbita Moschata (Butternut Pumpkin, Jap) and  Cucurbita Pepo (Sweet Dumpling, Orange Minikin)

Selection: It is the skin of the pumpkin that protects the wonderful orange flesh from deterioration, so avoid any that are scarred, bruised or cracked. Look for a bright, plump pumpkin that is heavy for its size and boasts a thick, hard rind.

 

CUCURBITA MAXIMA:

QUEENSLAND BLUE:

Image: www.marketfresh.com.au

Availability: all year

Appearance: big, heavy, ribbed, deep blue-grey skin and orange flesh

Characteristics: drier that other varieties, full flavoured

Best for: scones, boiling or baking

 JARRAHDALE:

Image: www.woolworths.com.au

Availability: all year

Appearance: large round variety with light blue/grey skin and a lovely deep yellow-orange flesh

Characteristics: cuts easily, sweet, firm flesh

Best for: baking – very moist therefore doesn’t lend well to boiling

 GOLDEN NUGGET:

Image: www.marketfresh.com.au

Availability: all year

Appearance: small, round pumpkin with orange – red, lightly ribbed skin and bright orange flesh

Characteristics: up to 1.5kg/15cm diameter, easily cut – appearance is its main selling point though it has sweet, creamy flesh

Best for: soup or stuffed as a single serve vessel – high seed ratio if you need roasted pumpkin seeds

 

CUCURBITA MOSCHATA:

BUTTERNUT PUMPKIN: aka Butternut Squash

Image: www.moraitis.com.au

Availability: available all year but at best in April, Jul-Aug, Dec-Jan

Appearance: elongated pear shape with smooth, golden-brown skin and orange flesh

Characteristics: dense, dry flesh with a lovely smooth texture and nutty flavour – flavour improves with storage – no need to peel

Best for: everything- especially roasting. Butternut is one of the most popular varieties due to its versatility

 JAP: aka Ken Special, Kent, Delica

Image: www.moraitis.com.au

Availability: all year

Appearance: small mottled green/grey pumpkin (1-3kg), yellow to orange flesh

Characteristics: softer and drier than most, cuts easily and boasts a mild, sweet flavour

Best for: stuff, bake, steam, mash

 

CUCURBITA PEPO:

SWEET DUMPLING:

Image: www.marketfresh.com.au

Availability: all year

Appearance: small pumpkin with white and green stripes and creamy, firm flesh

Characteristics: mildly sweet, honey nut flavour

Best for: perfect for roasting and stuffing

 ORANGE MINIKIN: aka baby pumpkin

Image: www.marketfresh.com.au

Availability: all year

Appearance: small, squat pumpkin, with ribbed, orange skin and yellow-light orange flesh

Characteristics: high seed content, ideal for hollowing and using as a single serve vessel

Best for: baking whole and stuffing with a savoury meat or rice filling – soups or roast the seeds

A: Samhain (All Hallows Eve) was believed to be the day that the souls of the departed (good and bad) were free to roam amongst us. It was Celtish tradition on this day to carve ‘Jack-o-Lanterns’ to both welcome the souls of loved ones and ward off unwelcome spirits. Traditionally Jack-o-lanterns were carved from beets, turnips or potato, however when almost ¾ million people fled to America during the Irish potato famine they brought the tradition but not the beets or gourds to carve. Therefore the pumpkin (native to central and south America) became a larger, easily accessible substitute.  

 

 

Leave a Reply