All about pumpkin: varieties, storing, using, and 50+ recipes

All about PUMPKIN - Embers on the hearth

Pumpkin is without a doubt the most popular of all the winter squashes. Except that it is in season during autumn and is best known as a halloween decoration.

But there are so many things that can be done with pumpkin beyond pie and soup, that I figured it needed its own dedicated page.

Native to North America, pumpkins are now popular all over the world and easy to buy no matter where you live.

Season

I feel everyone knows when pumpkins are in season, they become so ubiquitous every autumn that is hard to avoid them. But, if anyone needs it, pumpkins are in season between mid-September to early December.

Frozen and canned pumpkin can, of course, be found year-round.

Varieties

There is a ridiculous amount of pumpkin varieties. In fact, it’s hard to determine the fine line between pumpkins and other winter squash as they get mixed with each other so easily. The current count has pumpkin varieties at about 70. Pumpkin is usually the name for the plant Cucurbita pepo, but not all pumpkins belong to this species.

Most pumpkins weight between 3 and 8 kgs (approximately 7 to 18 lbs), unless they are one of the many miniature varieties, in which case they will be about the size of a hand. These little ones are extremely cute (and popular with kids!), and great for stuffing or using for soup. I usually buy a few of these to decorate the house, and later use them as an edible soup bowl for pumpkin soup.

I could spend hours writing about the different kinds of pumpkin, but I’d rather refer you to a fantastic article by the people at The Spruce: A guide to the best kinds of pumpkins.

Buying

During Autumn, you can probably find pumpkins anywhere that sells food, especially during the run-up to Halloween. However, many of these are grown for carving rather than eating.

If you’re looking for cooking pumpkins always look for one that feels heavy for its size, this means it will have a lot of flesh. Carving pumpkins usually have thinner flesh and are hollow inside.

You also want a pumpkin that has a smooth, firm skin (taking into account that some blemishes are normal and that there are some ‘bumpy’ varieties) and that is firm all over, spots that feel soft can come from rotting inside the pumpkin.

If you’re interested in using the seeds, larger pumpkins tend to have larger seeds that are easier to crack open to eat. But smaller pumpkins have softer seeds that can often be eaten whole.

Storing

Pumpkins will last up to 3 months if kept in a cool, dark, well-ventilated space. If kept in a warmer space, it will keep for about a month. Once it has been cut open it can last for up to 2 weeks in a cold fridge (but it will get softer the longer it stays in), and once cooked it should be eaten within one week.

Pumpkin can also be frozen and dehydrated, if you want to store it long-term.

Using

All of the pumpkin is edible, even the stalk if you have the teeth for it (I don’t!). The leaves should be cooked and they are very good in soups and stews. The seeds can be eaten raw or cooked, I personally like boiling them first to cook them all the way through, and then pan roasting them with different flavours (salted chili and honey cinnamon are two of our favourites). The flowers are also edible if you have access to them, they can be prepared just like courgette/zucchini flowers. I will eventually write individual pages for each of these.

Most people peel pumpkins, but the skin is perfectly edible. My daughter enjoys crispy roasted pumpkin skin as a snack, and I like adding it to vegetable soups for extra flavour and texture.

Once chopped, 1 kg (2 lbs) of pumpkin will fill about 6 cups. If mashed, it will be approximately 3 cups. If you peel the pumpkin, the amounts will be smaller.

Pumpkins are very hard to cut. Make sure you use a sharp knife on top of a non-slippery surface. If the knife gets stuck and won’t go through, take it out and start again. Forcing it through could lead to injury. Alternatively, you can also roast it whole and cut it as needed after it’s been cooked.

Pumpkin is actually a very versatile vegetable that can be prepared in all sorts of ways.

  • Raw: you can eat pumpkin raw, cut into sticks and use the same way you would a carrot stick. Alternatively, pickle.
  • Fry: cut into batons or small cubes and deep fry. You can batter before frying for a tempura-style pumpkin.
  • Pan fry: same as above.
  • Boil: cut in chunks and then eat as is or mash. Pumpkin can become quite watery when boiled, so it’s best to add to flavourful soups and curries.
  • Steam: same as above.
  • Grill/BBQ: slice into 1 cm (1/2”) thick slices and grill.
  • Roast: in batons, cubes, chunks, or whole.

Pumpkin puree can also be used as an egg alternative in some baking recipes.

Alternatives

If you don’t like or can’t find pumpkin, there are alternatives.

  • To keep the flavour: any other winter squash, sweet potato (use less as it is sweeter)
  • To keep the texture in baking: any other winter squash, apple sauce, pear sauce, mashed bananas, mashed sweet potato, mashed potatoes, mashed courgette/zucchini
  • To carve: other winter squashes, swede/rutabaga (the original Jack-o-lanterns), peppers or tomatoes (easy, but they will go bad fast)

Flavour combinations

The flavour profile of pumpkin is similar to most other winter squashes: somewhat sweet, somewhat earthy and somewhat nutty. It becomes sweeter when roasted and milder when boiled.

Much like tofu, pumpkin will happily take on any flavours and it goes well with most things:

  • Herbs: sage, thyme, rosemary, bay leaf, basil, mint
  • Spices: cinnamon, ginger, allspice, black pepper, chilli, curry powder, nutmeg, mace, cumin, paprika, garlic, cloves, cayenne pepper, vanilla, cardamom, garam masala, turmeric, fennel seeds
  • All root vegetables
  • Pork (bacon especially) and poultry.
  • Dairy: sweet (whipped cream, ice-cream…) or savoury (cheese, ghee…), and alternatives (coconut milk, soya cream…)
  • Grains such as wheat (including bread and pasta), rice, barley, spelt, oats…
  • Nuts and seeds
  • All kinds of chocolate
  • Sugar, honey, maple syrup, golden syrup
  • Apple, pear, cranberries, raisins, citrus fruits, pomegranate
  • All brassicas: cabbages, broccoli, Brussel Sprouts, cauliflower, kale…
  • All onions (especially caramelized): onions, shallots, leeks….
  • Balsamic vinegar, soy sauce
  • Legumes, especially lentils and chickpeas
  • Mushrooms
  • Bitter greens: rocket/arugula, dandelion, kale, mustard leaves, watercress, mature spinach, chicory/endive…

50+ pumpkin recipes

Pumpkin is very popular online! There are loads and loads of recipes, some very creative and interesting, some not so much.

This is a collection of recipes I’ve come across that I found interesting for different reasons. I have not used all of them, I rarely follow recipes as written, but they all have ideas that are worth checking out.

Pumpkin as the star

  1. Pumpkin alfredo pasta, by delish
  2. Pumpkin & bacon soup, by BBC goodfood
  3. Pumpkin and chilli spaghetti, by Riverford
  4. Pumpkin and coconut sweet (doce de abobora com coco), by allrecipes
  5. Pumpkin & ginger soup, by Jamie Oliver
  6. Pumpkin and ginger soup, by Sainsbury’s
  7. Pumpkin and nutmeg tart, by BBC FOOD
  8. Pumpkin & chestnut soup, by Raw Blend (video included)
  9. Pumpkin & ginger jam, by fabfood4all
  10. Pumpkin chilli, by hungry healthy happy
  11. Pumpkin chutney, by the crafty larder
  12. Pumpkin energy balls, by sneaky veg
  13. Pumpkin fries, by Mira Garvin
  14. Pumpkin halwa, by Hari Gotra
  15. Pumpkin marmalade, by Riverford
  16. Pumpkin muffins, by BBC goodfood
  17. Pumpkin oatmeal cookies, by the big man’s world
  18. Pumpkin pancakes, by The Little Pancake Company
  19. Pumpkin pie, by Riverford
  20. Pumpkin pie, by Jamie Oliver
  21. Pumpkin pie bars (with shortbread crust), by The Chunky Chef
  22. Pumpkin pie punch, by THE cookie rookie
  23. Pumpkin pie s’mores, by BBC goodfood
  24. Pumpkin pie with pecan crumble, by Jamie Oliver
  25. Pumpkin preserve, by allrecipes
  26. Pumpkin wine, by allrecipes (this is in my to-do list
  27. Quick pumpkin bread with homemade pumpkin puree, by Flavr Quotient
  28. Roasted pumpkin with maple, chili and feta, by recipe tin eats
  29. Spiced pumpkin cheesecake, by Waitrose
  30. Spiced pumpkin soup, by Supper in the Suburbs
  31. The South African pumpkin fritters also known as “Pampoenkoekies”, by South-African foods and drinks

Pumpkin as a flavour

  1. Cheesy pumpkin scones, by kidspot
  2. Honey-cinnamon pumpkin lentil salad, by recipe tin eats
  3. Lebanese pumpkin hummus, by Lazy Cat Kitchen
  4. One pot chicken and pumpkin rice, by dishing up balance
  5. Pan fried gnocchi with pumpkin & spinach, by recipe tin eats
  6. Pumpkin and apricot tagine, by green gourmet giraffe
  7. Pumpkin and cavolo nero risotto with pumpkin seed pesto, by The Circus Gardener’s Kitchen
  8. Pumpkin and roasted garlic houmous, by Sainsbury’s
  9. Pumpkin baked oatmeal, by two peas & their pod
  10. Pumpkin bread, by Riverford
  11. Pumpkin brownies, by THE cookie rookie
  12. Pumpkin cheesecake, by BBC goodfood
  13. Pumpkin cheesecake with brown butter gingersnap crust, by two peas & their pod
  14. Pumpkin, chickpea & coconut curry, by Jamie Oliver
  15. Pumpkin chili, by Morrisons
  16. Pumpkin chili, by allrecipes
  17. Pumpkin chocolate chip bars, by two peas & their pods
  18. Pumpkin chocolate chip bread, by two peas & their pod
  19. Pumpkin-chorizo pizza, by CountryLiving
  20. Pumpkin chutney, by allrecipes
  21. Pumpkin creme brulee, by The Chunky Chef
  22. Pumpkin energy balls, by two peas & their pod
  23. Pumpkin farro risotto with sage and pesto, by Sainsbury’s
  24. Pumpkin, fennel & Taleggio galette, by BBC goodfood
  25. Pumpkin, feta and pine nut filo layer pie, by delicious.
  26. Pumpkin pie white hot chocolate, by Manu’s Menu
  27. Pumpkin sambar, by veg recipes of India
  28. Pumpkin s’mores cookies, by house & garden
  29. Pumpkin waffles with apple syrup, by allrecipes
  30. Pumpkin Wellingtons with kale pesto and beetroot, by MiNDFOOD
  31. Slow cooker pumpkin apple bread, by bakingqueen74

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