Growing, storing and Using Pumpkins

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Pumpkins would have to be one of the cheapest and easiest vegetable we grow, though they do spread out taking up alot of room they are great for those areas not alot else can be grown in. This past Spring we planted them on a pile of compost created over winter and on top of an area of lawn that allowed for plenty of growth. Pumpkin scraps and seeds are just thrown on top as we discard them, they don’t really need starting in pots and alot of TLC babying them along.

The only problem we ever experience with them may be powdery mildew which is (usually) easily fixed with milk sprays. Homegrown pumpkin is so much better than store bought, they are hardy both in growing and storage. We harvest after the plants have died off and we leave most of them to get a couple of good frosts…this gives a deep dark orange flesh and a rich, sweet flavour. Pumpkins should be harvested with a two cm stem on the fruit and stored, not touching each other, in a cool and dark airy place. They generally last up to 9 months but do need to be checked.

This week I have been going through our stored pumpkins and removing any that are showing signs of deterioration. Offending areas can be cut out and the rest used. Any excess can be just cut and frozen raw in bags. They won’t lose flavour but the texture is affected, they break down quicker on cooking.

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I also cook pumpkin in salted water and mash it, freezing the puree in 1 cup quantities to use for baking. I also tend to make vegetarian lasagne, or a mixture of beef and vegetable, when I have the pumpkin already cooked and on hand to use.

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In New Zealand pumpkin is used alot as a vegetable, eaten either roasted, boiled or mashed. My son’s new wife is from Indiana, USA, and she was surprised by this, telling me her family have bought pumpkins to hollow out for Halloween but the flesh has always been thrown away !! We don’t really celebrate Halloween here but pumpkin is a common fresh vegetable in meals. Canned pumpkin has never made the shelves in supermarkets here (as far as I know).

I have tried roasting pumpkin seeds a few times but have never got them quite right, I don’t know that I will try again. Pumpkin flowers, like zucchini, are delicious fried in batter and both the vegetable and the flower can end up on a platter of Beer Battered Tempura Vegetables.

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We also use pumpkin, often leftover roasted, in vegetable quiches. Our absolute favourite though is this Pumpkin and Silverbeet Quiche

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Though Roger isn’t much of a soup eater I could live on it. Pumpkin soup with a little bacon, Pumpkin and Sweet Potato and Roast Pumpkin and Carrot soups are all very yummy but my favourite is the Spicy Pumpkin and Lentil.

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Pumpkin and Vegetable Bake (a terrible photo I have forgotten to sort!) and variations on Pumpkin Chickpea Patties are both good!! We also enjoy Roast pumpkin Hummus.

A recipe for Pumpkin Walnut and Raisin Bread here

Two things I still have not tried is the famous pumpkin pie and these yummy looking pumpkin pancakes at the wonderful Chocolate Covered Katie site.

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Spicy Pumpkin, Spinach and Lentil Soup

A few months ago I posted a recipe for Moroccon Lamb Soup, I have adapted this recipe for a vegetarian one. This has pumpkin, potato, spinach, lentils, chickpeas and is flavoured with turmeric, paprika and ginger. The results? Perfect!

Chock full of nutrients, this can be eaten as a stoup (how I like it) or more water added for a more soupy texture. This made a large quantity to enable freezing of some but could easily be halved.

500 g pumpkin, chopped

2 brown onions, chopped

2 carrots, diced

2 potatoes, cubed

good bunch of baby spinach…2 – 3 cups

5 cloves garlic

1 can tomatoes including juice, or fresh

400 g tin chickpeas, or cooked

1 cup brown lentils

Vegetable stock of choice, 10 – 12 cups water

2 tsp each paprika and turmeric

1 1/2 tsp each black pepper and ginger

Salt to taste – 11/2 – 2 tspns

Pour a little olive oil in the base of very large pan and saute onions, garlic and carrots with the spices gently till soft. Add all other ingredients except chickpeas and spinach and cook for 1 1/2 hours, keeping an eye on the water level as I needed to add more a couple of times. Add the chickpeas after 1 1/4 hours, check seasonings, and add the spinach just a couple of minutes before serving.

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This was actually very cheap to make, using most of the vegetables from the garden and frozen cooked chickpeas I by in bulk. The pumpkin base and spices makes this dish but this is something that could easily be adapted to use what is available/ cheap at the time.

Roast Pumpkin and Carrot Soup

This is a really nice, full bodied soup with the flavours of India – cumin, cardamon, coriander, tumeric, mustard seeds, garlic and topped with natural yogurt.

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1 kg pumpkin, cubed

800 g carrots, cubed

1/4 cup olive oil

2 brown onions, sliced

salt ( I used approx 11/2 tsp)

2 garlic cloves

1 tablespoon mustard seeds

2 teaspoons coriander

1 teaspoon cumin

1 teaspoon tumeric

1/2 teaspoon ground cardamon

1/2 tsp chilli powder (optional)

4 cups vegetable stock.

Natural yogurt to serve

I did mine a different way to the original recipe, full the other option see end of recipe. I made mine in an electric frypan.

Saute the carrot and pumpkin in the olive oil till soft and browned. Add the onions and garlic and continue till they are soft. Add spices and cook a further few minutes. Image

Add stock and salt and cook a further 15 minutes. Whiz in the food processor till smooth, return to heat and bring back to boil. Taste for seasoning adding more salt and black pepper if wished.

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Pour into bowls and top with yogurt. Serve with crusty bread.

For the optional method of cooking (roasting in oven etc) and origin of recipe see here:

http://shop.countdown.co.nz/Shop/Recipe/793?name=roast-pumpkin-and-carrot-soup