Pumpkins are members of the same botanic family as gourds, melons, zucchinis, squash and cucumbers. Although botanically categorised as a fruit because they contain seeds, for culinary purposes they are considered a vegetable.
Pumpkins grow on a vigorous, annual, ground-covering vine with separate male and female flowers on the same plant. Once the female flower is pollinated it becomes the pumpkin fruit. Pumpkins are best allowed to mature on the vine and harvested when the vine has completely died off.
There are numerous varieties grown in South Australia, the most common being butternut, kabocha (also known as Jap, Japanese or Kent), Queensland blue, golden nugget and Jarrahdale. Pumpkin varieties vary in size, shape and colour, weighing from 1kg to 600kg, round to oblong, and orange, green and grey to a multi-coloured.
Some pumpkin varieties, such as the Jarrahdale or the Queensland blue, will store on the vine for up to seven months over winter, whereas butternuts store for a maximum of four months. Once harvested, the pumpkin should be stored uncut in a cool, dark, well-ventilated place. Once cut, wrap the pumpkin in plastic and store in a refrigerator for one to two weeks.
Pumpkins are rich in beta-carotene, an important antioxidant.
They can be used to make soups, as well as fillings for filo pastries, muffins and pies. They also work well in stews and curries. Pumpkin scones are a traditional Aussie favourite, as is roast pumpkin. Pumpkin is also a great ingredient for preserves and pickles, ravioli fillings, as a base for gnocchi and chargrilled on the barbecue.
Some varieties suit different cooking styles better than others. Check with the farmers’ market stallholders for which type of pumpkin would best suit your intended method of cooking.
You can find pumpkins at Patlin’s Garden, B & S Andonopoulos, G & K Bariamas, S & M Kondoprias and Virgara’s Garden stalls at Adelaide Showground Farmers’ Market on Sunday from 9am to 1pm at the Adelaide Showground, Leader Street, Wayville.
G & K Bariamas, Virgara’s Garden and S & M Kondoprias will also have stalls at the Willunga Farmers’ Market on Saturday from 8am to 12.30pm. Also open on Saturday morning is the Gawler Farmers’ Market from 8am to noon at the Gawler Visitor Information Centre, 2 Lyndoch Road, Gawler.
Here, Lyndall Vandenberg, marketing and communications coordinator for the Willunga Farmers’ Market, shares a favourite pumpkin recipe.
Baked Pumpkin, Bacon and Herb Frittata
8 free-range eggs
½ medium butternut pumpkin, cut into cubes
1 bacon rasher, finely sliced
handful of fresh herbs, such as tarragon, sage, parsley or marjoram
2 large tbsp fresh ricotta
salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 160C.
Line a medium baking pan with baking paper. Add the pumpkin and drizzle over a little olive. Place the pan in the oven and roast until almost cooked through and beginning to brown. Next, add the bacon and bake for a further 15 minutes, or until just beginning to crisp.
Mix the eggs and ricotta in a small bowl, seasoned with a little salt and pepper. Toss the herbs over the pumpkin then pour in the egg mixture.
Let the frittata cook, undisturbed, until the top is golden and set – about 20 minutes.
Run a spatula around the edge of the frittata to loosen it from the pan and slide it onto a cutting board to serve.
Present the frittata, warm or at room temperature with a crisp green salad.
Serves 6 as a meal or 12 as a starter.
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