A round-up of the Market’s best
Though perhaps the most recognisable member of the squash family, sadly, the pumpkin is often confined to adorning windowsills and driveways—ablaze with tea lights that wink through carved out faces—for just one day at the end of October. But the beauty of this autumnal vegetable goes far beyond its traditional role as a simple Halloween decoration.
“People refer to particular varieties of squash as pumpkins, but they’re all part of the same family really,” says Shuk at Ted’s Veg. “Pumpkins are hardier than most types of summer squash and generally speaking, they’re not quite as sweet—but there’s much more depth to the flavour,” adds Charlie at Turnips. “The most common type of pumpkin, known as the jack of all trades, doesn’t have much flavour. They’re the cheapest pumpkin you can buy”—but there are many varietals of all shapes, sizes and flavour profiles besides. The problem, Charlie continues, is that a lot of people simply aren’t aware of them.
Ted’s Veg offers a huge range each year, all of which are grown on the Dawson family farm in Lincolnshire. “We have a big variety,” says Shuk. “At the moment we’ve got sugar pumpkins”—the tiny, bright orange ones, so-named for their sweet flesh—“iron man, which are massive and really tough to cut, as well as a Japanese one called kabocha. It has very dark green colouring, a lovely texture and real buttery taste to it. Great for stews.”
The crown prince pumpkin, which can be found at several of Borough’s greengrocers, is particularly unusual as its skin stays a beautiful silver-blue throughout the season, belying its dark orange flesh. “The crown prince and delicia pumpkin are by far the most ‘in vogue’—chefs are going mad for their extremely sweet and malleable skin once roasted,” says Charlie. “We did tastings internally with all of the squashes we currently stock, too, and the crown prince was the winner almost unanimously!”
When it comes to cooking, treat them as you would any other squash—though “you can’t sauté a pumpkin like you would a tromba squash or courgette, because the skin isn’t edible,” notes Charlie. “But their robustness means they’re great for roasting and in stews.” Its fleshy nature makes pumpkin a filling alternative to meat, as well as a great vehicle for spices such as in Jenny Chandler’s creamy spiced coconut and lentil soup. For more cold weather comfort food, try making Paula McIntyre’s fluffy pumpkin and potato gnocchi with cheesy sauce and crunchy pumpkin seed crumble.
Pumpkin also works well in sweet dishes: use up carving leftovers with Juliet Sear’s pumpkin cupcakes, or Beca’s all-American pumpkin pie: traditionally made with eggs, double cream, brown sugar, nutmeg and a generous dash of cinnamon and ginger, it’s deliciously rich and warming—just what the doctor (or rather, the weatherman) ordered.