Pumpkin, or squash, is one of the most popular vegetables around the world, and especially in Australia. Best known in pop culture as a Halloween Jack O Lantern, it’s also a tasty, filling vegetable that should be on everyone's shopping list! Let’s break down the pumpkin varieties in Australia.
There are many pumpkin types in Australia. Pumpkin is very versatile, quite cheap per kilo and can be used on its own or in savoury or sweet recipes
. Some pumpkin varieties are available year round in Australia, but official pumpkin season and when you’ll find them in abundance in the farmers markets and fresh food aisles of the supermarket, is March, making it the perfect vegetable to cook when the weather starts getting colder in the lead up to winter.
How to choose the best pumpkin
The trick to choosing the best pumpkin at the supermarket is to knock on it. A ripe pumpkin will make a hollow sound. The best pumpkins at the store will have tough, hard shells (or rinds). While the colour isn’t too important (forget the super orange pumpkin stereotype from Halloween movies), avoid any soft spots, signs of mould or cuts in the rind.
Choosing the right time to harvest a pumpkin directly off the plant is as simple as looking at the vine. The pumpkin is ripe for the picking if the vine is dry and the stem is brown and hard.
How to store pumpkin
Whole pumpkins are best stored in a cool, dry and well ventilated place. Pre-cut pumpkin is best stored in the fridge. Once cooked, store pumpkin or foods containing pumpkin in the fridge. If freezing pumpkin, please be aware that the texture will change and be more mushy after defrosted, so it is best used for pumpkin puree or soups.
How to cook pumpkin
Pumpkin can be cooked in so many ways! You can purchase pumpkin pre-pureed or canned, which is best for sweet recipes like pumpkin pie. You can also microwave, bake, boil or steam pumpkin.
If you’re a gardener and have lots of space, you may consider growing your own crop. Pumpkin vines can be quite prolific, the vegetables can be quite large depending on variety and the seeds need a bit of space between them, so it’s best to have lots of space. Pumpkins need moist soil and lots of sun. It’s best to start growing your pumpkins in spring or summer. Pumpkin is relatively easy to grow, but harvesting them can be a chore! Check out a detailed guide on how to grow pumpkins here