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.

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.

Roasted Asparagus and Pesto Pasta

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This is a simple and very delicious meal to make. I used rice pasta, homemade pesto, homemade sundried tomatoes and homegrown asparagus. The pesto I used was my parsley and sunflower seed – the sunflower seeds make it an economical pesto (I sometimes use walnuts instead) The recipe for this is here, I make up batches and freeze in ice cube trays for use in recipes.https://quarteracrelifestyle.wordpress.com/2013/02/22/parsley-sunflower-pesto/ Despite the rather humble ingredients this is a really tasty pesto.

The quantities for this dish are approximate,  really it’s just a throw together meal depending on quantities available or required.

1 1/2 bunches asparagus (12 – 15 spears?)

Around 3 – 4  cups cooked pasta

1/2 – 3/4 cup pesto

Sundried tomatoes to taste, sliced finely

Preheat the oven to 350 deg. Put the pasta on to cook in boiling, salted water.

Pour a little olive oil into an ovenproof dish. Break asparagus into 3 pieces and roll in oil in dish. Roast in oven 12 minutes turning once.

Drain the pasta and toss the sundried tomatoes and pesto through it. Add the asparagus and fold through gently. Tip into bowl and decorate with a few more slices of sundried tomato.

This recipe originally came from Damn Delicious and she adds mozzarella to it http://damndelicious.net/2012/07/21/pesto-pasta-with-sun-dried-tomatoes-and-roasted/

For dessert we had a vegan avocado/chocolate tart topped with fresh strawberries. I have made this a few times since I found this divine recipe here http://glutenfreegus.com/2012/12/28/387/

Pumpkin and Spinach Chickpea (Garbanzo) Patties

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I found this recipe on the net a couple of years ago and change it to suit whatever I have in the garden or as leftovers, unfortunately I can’t remember where I got it from to link it to it’s rightful owner. It’s such a versatile and inexpensive recipe.

I buy my chickpeas from a bulk food store, cook and freeze them in serving sized packets. This is alot cheaper than buying canned and I prefer the taste of them.

1 tbspn oil

1 med onion

2 cloves of garlic

Small zucchini, grated

400 g – 500 g chickpeas

2 – 3 slices of wholegrain bread made into soft breadcrumbs

2 tbsp peanut butter

1 egg yolk

1 1/2 tsp curry powder

3 cups cooked vegetables (I used 11/2 cups cooked pumpkin, 1 1/2 cups finely shredded raw spinach)

1 tablespoon chopped fresh coriander (or other herbs)

1 tsp salt and little pepper

Fry onion and garlic till soft, drain well. Squeeze all liquid out of grated zucchini. Using a food processor make breadcrumbs then add chickpeas and process till crumbly but still some texture to peas. Tip into a bowl and add all other ingredients, mixing well. Mixture should be like a hamburger consistency, able to shape into patties. If too wet add more breadcrumbs. Fry on each side till golden.

We had these served with chutney, jacket potatoes, salad and beetroot. They also make a great vegetarian hamburger, or with salad as an open sandwich…or just cold out of the fridge! I vary them every time, sometimes leaving the curry powder out depending on what is in them.

Added 2 weeks later, toasted bread with salad and shallow fried chips.

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