2013 has been the best year yet for growing pumpkins and winter squashes in my garden. A combination of new varieties and proven old favourites, and what must have been perfect growing conditions has given me a mass of fruit to use over the winter. If you’re like me, you’ll no doubt be wondering what you’re going to do with them all, but fear not – I have some ideas!
The first thing to note is that winter squash are designed to store. You don’t need to use them now – pick them off the vines before the frosts damage them and keep them in a cool dark place. I’m storing mine in the garage – this should give me several months in which to use them up. Of course, if you don’t have the luxury of growing your own, now is the perfect time to get out and buy some. My local farm shop is packed out with different varieties (some as big as a small car!), and the supermarkets are stocking up for halloween. But beware – the big orange halloween pumpkins may be great to carve, but they don’t have the best of flavours. I always stick with the smaller varieties or proven heritage pumpkins which are grown specifically for their flavour.
This year I’ve had success with the mini-pumpkins “Sweet Lightening” and “Sweet Dumpling”, and for the first time ever, had a usable harvest of butternut squash – the more traditional “Victory” and in particular, the stripy green variety “Barbara”. The mini-pumpkins are great, weighing in at 500g-800g, they make a perfect meal for 2, either boiled or roasted whole, stuffed or peeled and sautéed off. In addition to my own home-grown haul, I picked up a ‘Crown Prince’ pumpkin at my Farm Shop – a renowned heritage variety with a great flavour and the most amazing colour, with a blue-bloom shell and bright orange flesh. It was a real hit, and one I’ll be looking to grow next year.
But I digress – what can I do with all of these winter squash? Pumpkins tend to have a starchy texture, and can be used in place of sweet potatoes, or anywhere you may need a smooth mash. Some varieties are a bit more substantial and these hold together well when cooked. How about:
- Caribbean Pumpkin & Habanero Pickle
- Fruity Festive Chutney
- Mini pumpkins stuffed with Thai Red Curry Chicken
- Pumpkin Tart with Chestnuts & Roast Vegetables
- Beetroot and Pumpkin Hash
- Pumpkin Gnocchi
- Smashed Squash & Beans
- Habanero Chicken Soup
- Duchess Surprise!
- Pumpkin Tortellini
- Homesteading without the Homestead: Winter Squash, a New England Tradition (ediblesouthshoreblog.wordpress.com)
- Can you Eat Pumpkin? (allaboutpumpkin.wordpress.com)
- Squash Growing Guide (mastergarden.wordpress.com)
- If at first you don’t succeed… (lottielandgirl.com)