Sunday, 23 March 2014


Cucurbita pepo, Cucurbita mixta,  Cucurbita maxima or Cucurbita moschata 

pumpkins on the vine
Winter is around the corner and my mind turns to the comfort and warmth inducing pursuits. When the  threat of frost is soon to be in the air my first thought is pumpkin harvesting. A staple for winter feasting but we needs must prepare for our bounty at our earliest spring convenience.

A feral upstart from amidst the compost in the perennial food forest become one of the most giving and bounteous harvests of the year. A gift of serendipity that needed little care or consideration and yet still gave most effortlessly to our Autumn and Winter table. When growing pumpkin on purpose it is still a very easy task. In a well drained position with well turned soil incorporating a lot of organic composted material simply sow the seed to a depth 3 times the length of the seed itself. A plant spacing of 1m is a good guide and a good place to have them sprawling is from within a stand of corn. Our feral pumpkin had no special consideration other than a mulch of sugar cane and an occasion top dress of bunny poo as well as a good watering in the evening if the leaves appeared droopy during a hot day.

pumpkin flower
It is good to note that this precocious flowerer is essentially bi-sexual and you will see two very different flower bases. The male flower will have no fruiting bulb at it’s base whereas the female flower will form a fruiting body below the flower. If you notice these fruiting bodies going yellow without swelling and then dropping off you may well have to opportune your plant of a bit of sexual therapy. Simply get a cotton bud and wipe it on the stamens of the male flower and gently transfer some pollen to the female stigma which is especially sticky for this very purpose.

Generally a single plant will support up to 8-12 pumpkins.

Now it is time to be impressed with those swelling fruits and avail yourself of another crop little known or appreciated! Pumpkin leaves!

A moment of sheer joy it was when I found out that my hairy plate sized pumpkin leaves were not just nutritious, but entirely delicious and known in Zimbabwe as muboora. The only trick is to pick them bright green, young, tender and about the size of a bread and butter plate. Little preparation is required other than a good rinse to remove anything from the protective hairs.

I might even be so bold as to suggest we eat the male flowers once we have used them sexually and I will share a few of my favourite recipes for you to do so.

Tempura Squash Flowers

Tempura squash flowers

  • 8 x squash (pumpkin or zucchini) flowers
  • 200 g soft goat cheese
  • 1/2 x lemon rind finely grated
  • 5 x sage leaves finely shredded
  • 2 pinches salt
  • 1/2 cup rice flour
  • 1/4 cup pear cider
  • 8 x sage flowers
  • 1 pinch salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
In a bowl mash the goat cheese and mix in the shredded sage, lemon rind a pinch of salt
Gently place an 1/8th of the mixture into the inside of each of the zucchini flowers and gently press the flower into shape and place into the fridge to set.
Heat your oil so that a crumb of bread sizzles the instant it hits the oil.
Whisk the pear cider into the rice flour and season with the other pinch of salt. Retrieve the flowers from the fridge and one by one coat them with the batter and plunge into the hot oil. Allow to sizzle for a minute and flip over for even colour and remove using a slotted spoon to a plate covered with a paper towel to drain excess oil. Quickly dip each of the sage flowers into the batter and deep fry and drain.
Serve each zucchini flower with a sage flower and gently seasoned as a side or as a delicious entrée.

pumpkin pesto

Pumpkin Pesto

  • 10 x pumpkin leaves, tender young no bigger than a entree plate
  • 6 sprigs basil
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin seed kernels, lightly toasted
  • 2 pinches salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1/3 cup olive oil, cold pressed
  • 1 x lemon, juiced
  • 1 clove garlic
Pumpkin pasty
Roughly chop the leaves and garlic and place all ingredients into a processor except the parmesan and pulse until not quite smooth. Turn out into a bowl and stir through the parmesan. Adjust the seasoning and serve with wafers, crudités, small salad leaves or stirred through pasta … the possibilities are endless

I made a batch into pesto mini pasties with a wholemeal spelt sourdough pastry as an entree.

Pumpkin Risotto

pumpkin risotto
  • 2 cups pumpkin chunks
  • 4 x celery stalks
  • 1 tspn vegetable stock powder
  • 3 cloves garlic - finely diced
  • 2 x onions, finely sliced
  • 2 x bacon rashers, finely sliced
  • 2 x chilli, mild green finely diced
  • 2 tspn extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 Tbls butter
  • 1 cup arborio rice
  • 2 cups pumpkin flesh, cubed and roasted for 20mins
  • 1 cup pumpkin flesh, cubed
  • 1 cup fennel, finely sliced
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 3 x pumpkin leaves, tender young no bigger than a entree plate, shredded
  • 5 sprigs basil, finely shredded
  • 1 cup parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1 pinch salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Process the pumpkin chunks and celery through a juicer and make the resulting juice up to 500ml with water and add the stock powder and stir.
Boil the cup each of pumpkin flesh and fennel in 1/2 cup water until tender and the stock reduced. Allow to cool and blend until smooth. Set aside.
Sweat the garlic, onion and chilli gently in the oil and butter with the bacon and gently cook out the bacon fat.
Add the rice and gently cook stirring until the rice becomes translucent.
Slowly introduce the juice stock and stir until completely absorbed, this should take 20 minutes to complete. Add the puree and allow that to be absorbed while stirring. Add the roasted pumpkin and allow the risotto to begin to slightly catch to the bottom of the pan.
Add the finely shredded greens and parmesan and stir off the heat, season and serve.
Garnish with shreds of parmesan and garden fresh herbs.

Stuffed Golden Nugget Pumpkin

  • 4 golden nugget pumpkin (one each serve)
  • 1 cup quinoa, cooked to instructions
  • 6 pumpkin leaves, finely shredded
  • 4 baby fennel finely sliced
  • 2 sprigs oregano
  • 2 tspn vegetable stock powder
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 2 tbsp butter

Remove a neat cap from the top of each pumpkin and open them to the seed center reserving any tender flesh and the cap. Scoop out the seeds and seed baring pulp.
mix all other ingredients and fill each pumpkin cavity tightly.
place the cap back over the pumpkin and place them all in a deep dish with 1/2 inch of water in the bottom of the pan.
Bake in a moderate oven for 40 minutes or until a skewer can pass easily through the center of the pumpkin.

Serve as a side

Nutritional Rundown

As a fruit that can be known as the largest in the world you can tell by its bright colour that it’s going to be going to be good for you. Not only is pumpkin loaded with vitamin A and antioxidant carotenoids, particularly alpha and beta-carotenes, it’s a good source of vitamins C, K, and E, and lots of minerals, including magnesium, potassium, and iron.

Pumpkin fruit

Nutrient RDI/100gm
vitamin-A 246%
Vitamin-C 15%
Potassium  9%
Vitamin-E 7%
Calcium 2%
Vitamin B-6 5%
Iron 4%
Magnesium 3%
Antioxidants: carotenoids, particularly alpha and beta-carotenes
B-complex: Folates, Niacin, Pantothenic acid, Pyridoxine, Riboflavin & Thiamin
Minerals: copper, calcium, potassium, iron, magnesium, manganese and phosphorus, selenium & zinc
Poly-phenolic flavonoid compounds: α, ß carotenes, cryptoxanthin, lutein and zea-xanthin. Carotenes convert into vitamin A inside the body.

pumpkin leaves

Pumpkin Leaves

Nutrient RDI/100gm
vitamin-A 17%
Vitamin-C 7%
Manganese 7%
potassium 5%
Calcium 2%
Vitamin B-6 4%
Iron 5%
B-complex: Thiamin, Riboflavin, Niacin, Vitamin B6, Folate
Minerals: Calcium, Iron, Magnesium, Phosphorus, Potassium, Copper and Manganese.
Amino-acids: Arginine, Cystine, Histidine, Isoleucine, Leucine, Lysine, Methionine, Phenylalanine, Threonine, Tryptophan, Tyrosine & Valine

Pumpkin Flowers

Nutrient RDI/100gm
vitamin-A 46%
Vitamin-C 11%
Folate 14%
Magnesium 8%
Calcium 5%
Vitamin B-6 3%
Iron 7%
B-complex: Vitamin B6 & Folate
Minerals: Calcium, Phosphorus and Potassium, Iron, Magnesium and Copper.

Pumpkin Seeds (Pepitas)

Nutrient RDI/33gm
Manganese 74%
Tryptophan 53%
Phosphorus 40%
Magnesium 48%
Copper 22%
Zinc 17%
Iron 1%
B-complex: Vitamin B6
Antioxidents: alpha-tocopherol, gamma-tocopherol, delta-tocopherol, alpha-tocomonoenol, gamma-tocomonoenol, phenolic acids hydroxybenzoic, caffeic, coumaric, ferulic, sinapic, protocatechuic, vanillic, and syringic acid; and the lignans pinoresinol, medioresinol, and lariciresinol
Minerals: phosphorus, magnesium, manganese, zinc, iron and copper..

Cultural Significance

A pumpkin pie might very well be perfect Sam­hain fare and we have long been acquainted with the carving of squashes and gourds to celebrate harvest and bounty as harkens back to ancient Celtic tradition.

Traditionally, pumpkin was used for treating type 2 diabetes in Mexico where the traditional healers administered crude extract of the pumpkin fruit to the patients.
There is some evidence that diets high in pumpkin seeds showed lower risk of gastric, breast, lung and colorectal cancers as well as prostate cancer and benign tumours.
Use of pumpkin seed for treatment of tapeworms and other intestinal parasite date back many years and in China pumpkin seeds were used to be treat people with acute schistosomiasis, a severe parasitic disease that is transmitted through snails. Proteins and oil extracted from pumpkin seeds inhibit growth of wide range of bacteria, fungi and yeast.

Furthermore pumpkin seeds have positive influence in cases of depression, kidney stones, inflammatory disease and bacterial infection.

pumpkin and fennel soup
The pumpkin is a symbol of magick, the unknown and the mysterious. It’s orange colour and exotic flavour and scent may be associated with the Fire element and placing a small pumpkin next to a candle in the South section of a home altar would enhance that effect. Some associate it with Water due to it’s high water content. A pumpkin essential oil would make amazing pumpkin-scented candles for spellwork with the energy from the pumpkin helping to increase the power of spells and any magick that involves the discovery and development of magickal skills as well as promote relaxation and meditation.

Tarot and divination practices may draw on the energies of the pumpkin placed nearby to reveal the unknown and will lend potency to the tools of reading

Pumpkin scented sachets would welcome warm energies into the home and drive away any harmful energies.
Pumpkins are linked to the mysterious, the unknown, the dark, and all kinds of magick.
Be open and aware of the resonance of a pumpkin. Adding a pumpkin drum to a drumming circle may create emotive and magickal effects, bringing to the circle a warming energy, revealing the unknown.

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