Making the most of Autumn pumpkin

pumpkinsPumpkin is a classic autumn vegetable. In America where it originated, it’s a traditional part of the autumn harvest, eaten in soups, puree and the staple of Thanksgiving, the pumpkin pie.

While not as wildly popular as it is in the US, pumpkin is still an Aussie favourite, most often making its way into a Sunday roast, pumpkin soup or those classic Queensland scones made famous by Lady Flo.

Local farmers have begun their Autumn pumpkin harvest, and there is a good variety currently available at the New Brighton and Mullumbimby Farmers Markets including the popular jap, the butternut and the potkin – a smaller variety that tastes more like a blend of sweet potato and pumpkin. Also look out for the gramma pumpkin, traditionally used by Australian country cooks for the Aussie version of pumpkin pie, the gramma pie.

If you are someone who finds cutting up pumpkin fiddly, there’s a shortcut: Simply cut your pumpkin in half, scoop out the seeds (save them for later) season and cover with foil and roast for about an hour and a half until the flesh is soft. Once it’s cool, you can scoop the flesh out and use for pumpkin scones, blend it with stock, coconut milk and ginger for an easy pumpkin soup or fold in some local ricotta from Burringbar cheese maker Deb Allard of Cheeses Loves You and fresh herbs and enjoy on sourdough toast for breakfast.

For a lunch or side salad, roast pieces of pumpkin in olive oil and salt and pepper, then toss with baby spinach leaves, toasted pine nuts or local pecans and sprinkle with local feta. Dress with local honey from The Honey Wagon and balsamic vinegar.

Pumpkin seeds are highly nutritious and a great snack, so don’t throw them away. To prepare, give them a quick rinse, and rub off as much stringy pumpkin buts as possible (don’t worry too much about getting them 100 per cent clean). Dry on a tea towel, then toss in a little olive oil and salt and roast  at 150 for about 20 minutes. Eat them as a snack, sprinkle on salad or on your pumpkin soup.

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