Don’t just chop them up at Hallowe’en, used in soups, pies and stuffed, pumpkins make a delicious addition to our autumn menus. Fiona Lawrenson spills the beans
I’ve seen grown men cry over the sight of a giant pumpkin, and serious money can be won and lost on these amazing vegetables. If you don’t feel up to growing show-standard pumpkins, but fancy making your own Hallowe’en lantern or, more in my line, a delicious, hearty soup, then take note. Pumpkins are cool and in vogue.
Firstly, these giant vegetables are not hardy, so plant out after all risk of frost has passed. Find yourself an open and sunny site with soil that is moisture retentive, well drained, has a neutral to slightly acidic pH level and is rich in nutrients (so plenty of well rotted manure dug in).
Pumpkins are not the easiest vegetables to grow from seed indoors as they can be difficult to transplant, so sow in situ a couple of weeks before the last expected frosts. A tip: to encourage fast germination, soak the seeds in water overnight then place two to three seeds, in the same location, at a depth of one inch. Raise a circular ridge of soil around them, as this will enable the water to be retained in the surrounding hollow. Place a jam jar over the seeds to act as a mini greenhouse. Once these have germinated, thin to one seedling. Pumpkins are thirsty plants and need plenty of water for the flowers to set and the fruits to swell.
Good soil preparation should provide enough food, but if you feel still that it lacks nourishment add a liquid feed during the time that the plants are swelling. Also, mulch around the plants as they grow to conserve moisture and suppress any weeds.
Pumpkins are ready to harvest when the skins are hard and sound hollow when tapped. They should be harvested before the autumn frosts. Pumpkins can be stored for several months in a frost free, cool storage area or shed.
Pumpkin and Bacon Soup
You will need:
700g (1lb 8oz) pumpkin
30g (1oz) butter
1 medium onion
275ml (10fl oz) full fat milk
725ml (1 pint 6fl oz) chicken stock
3 rashers streaky bacon
Salt, pepper and nutmeg
Melt the butter in a saucepan. Add the chopped onion and bacon – cook for 10 minutes to soften. Add the chopped pumpkin flesh, stir and add salt and pepper to taste. Cook, on a low heat, for a further 10 minutes with the saucepan lid on. Pour in the stock and milk and simmer for a further 20 minutes. Don’t allow the mixture to boil. At this stage the pumpkin should be nice and soft. Pour the mixture into a blender. Blend.
The soup is delicious served warm topped with a swirl of cream and a sprinkling of ground nutmeg and eaten with crusty bread.
Visit our Superstore to see its range of pumpkin and other vegetable seeds