Pumpkin is the gourd-like squash of the genus Cucurbita. In New Zealand what we call pumpkin generally falls into what the rest of the world refer to as winter squash. It comes in a variety of colours that can have a smooth or nobbly skin depending on the variety. High in beta-carotenoids and fibre, it is thought to have anti-inflammatory properties and is also high in potassium. You can use it in either sweet or savoury dishes.
There are many varieties but most people will recognise them as colours.
- Grey pumpkins – A typical grey pumpkin is heavily ribbed with smooth grey skin and orange flesh.
- Jap or Kent pumpkin– A squat ribbed pumpkin with green-grey skin mottled with yellow and brown flecks. The flesh is a yellow/orange and is sweet.
- Butternut – A bell shaped pumpkin with a creamy buff skin and bright orange flesh. It has a very sweet flavour and is great for roasting.
- Golden nugget – Is a small round deep orange pumpkin with a golden yellow flesh. These are thin walled and idea for stuffing or using to hold soups.
- Sweet dumpling pumpkin – Is a also a small round variety with pale skin that has dark green stripes. The flesh is pale yellow.
How to select and store pumpkin
When selecting you need to choose pumpkins which have a hard, thick skin and feel heavy for their size. If choosing cut pumpkin, you need to look for bright orange/yellow flesh with a sweet nutty aroma. Most pumpkins such as grey pumpkins will store on the vine for up to 7 months over winter. Butternut pumpkins store for around 4 months. Keep pumpkins stored in a cool, dark well-ventilated place for up to 2 months. Cut pumpkin needs to be covered in cling wrap and will store in the refrigerator for up to 7 days
How to cook pumpkin
Pumpkin is both suitable for sweet or savoury dishes. You can steam, boil, roast, fry, saute and microwave pumpkin. Steaming and microwaving best preserve the nutrients. Pumpkin is also great added to soups and stews as well as pies and casseroles. You can also roast and eat the seeds.
Pumpkin is a very dense and hard to cut vegetable. Using a serrated knife to cut and peel will give you a little extra grip and prevent the knife from slipping.