Vegetable of the Month – Pumpkin

8th October 2019

During the month of October Pumpkins make their appearance. Pumpkins are very versatile in their uses. For cooking, most parts of the pumpkin are edible, including the fleshy shell, the seeds, the leaves, and even the flowers.
When ripe, the pumpkin can be boiled, steamed, or roasted. In its native North America, pumpkins are a very important, traditional part of the autumn harvest, eaten mashed and making its way into soups and purées. Often, it is made into pie, various kinds of which are a traditional staple of the Canadian and American Thanksgiving holidays. In Canada, Mexico, the United States, Europe and China, the seeds are often roasted and eaten as a snack.

Halloween is traditionally associated with pumpkins. Pumpkins are commonly carved into decorative lanterns called jack-o’-lanterns for the Halloween season. Traditionally Britain and Ireland would carve lanterns from vegetables, particularly the turnip, mangelwurzel, or swede, and they continue to be popular choices today as carved lanterns in Scotland and Northern Ireland, although the British purchases in excess of a million pumpkins for Halloween.

The practice of carving pumpkins for Halloween originated from an Irish myth about a man named “Stingy Jack”. Not until 1837, does jack-o’-lantern appear as a term for a carved vegetable lantern, and the carved pumpkin lantern association with Halloween is recorded in 1866.

In the United States, the carved pumpkin was first associated with the harvest season in general, long before it became an emblem of Halloween. In 1900, an article on Thanksgiving entertaining recommended a lit
jack-o’-lantern as part of the festivities that encourage kids and families to join together to make their own
jack-o’-lanterns. This is a tradition that continues today in both the USA and the UK.

October is the start of cold Autumn days when comfort food is on the menu. Pumpkin makes a delicious soup but make sure you use ones suitable for cooking and not the carving pumpkins as these tend to not have a great amount of flavour.
Why not try the recipe below for a delicious and warming soup!

Pumpkin & Bacon Soup
Ingredients –
1 tbsp vegetable oil
50g butter
1 onion, finely chopped
150g maple-cured bacon, cut into small pieces
½ Pumpkin suitable for cooking, peeled, deseeded and cut into medium chunks (you need about 500g pumpkin flesh)
1ltr chicken stock
100ml double cream
3 tbsp pumpkin seeds, toasted
maple syrup,for drizzling

In a large, heavy-bottomed pan, heat the oil with 25g butter. Add the onion and a pinch of salt and cook on a low heat for 10 mins or until soft. Add 60g bacon and cook for a further 5 mins until the bacon releases its fat. Then increase the heat to medium, add the pumpkin and stock and season. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer, cover with a lid and cook for about 40 mins until the pumpkin is soft. Pour in the cream, bring to the boil again and remove from the heat. Set aside some of the liquid, then blend the remaining pumpkin until smooth and velvety, adding liquid back into the pan bit by bit as you go (add more liquid if you like it thinner). Strain through a fine sieve, check the seasoning and set aside.

Melt the remaining butter in a pan over a high heat and fry the rest of the bacon with black pepper for 5 mins. Divide the bacon between four bowls, reheat the soup and pour over. To serve, sprinkle over the pumpkin seeds and drizzle with maple syrup.

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