PUMPKINS – February

a great substitute for traditional carbs

Pumpkins can be eaten fresh off the vines now, or all winter from the storage rack. At this time of the year use pumpkin in salads. In winter, pumpkin can replace pasta in lasagna, it’s a wonderful accompaniment to any roast and can be made into pumpkin pie dessert.

If you’re confused between pumpkin and squash, generally speaking ‘pumpkin’ is the culinary term and ‘squash’ is the botanical term for exactly the same vegetable. So we’ll refer to pumpkins as squash from this point on!

« Squash belongs to the cucurbit family which
includes zucchinis, cucumbers and melons.

Cucurbits thrive in warm conditions and early summer is the time to start planting them out. Choose an open space with good air movement which gets all day sun.

Add compost to your soil before planting to increase the nutritive value and improve soil structure. Cucurbits are gross feeders, so we suggest adding an animal manure (chicken poo or sheep pellets) to the hole you plant in. Fork or spade it through though before planting so it doesn’t burn the plant’s roots. Once in the soil, give each plant a handful of Natures Organic Fertiliser and add more animal manure around the plants.

Plant squash 50-70 cms apart. Squash trail extensively, so we recommend popping a bamboo stick in around the centre of the plant. Once they start to trail you’ll be able to find the roots for watering.

Powdery mildew is a problem in humid climates. If your plants do succumb to it OR as a preventative measure here are three ways to treat the disease (use a watering can to apply):
– Dilute milk 10 parts to 1
– Mix 1 teaspoon of baking soda to every 1 litre of water
– Dilute Flowers of Sulphur in water (as per instructions on the packet)

A dose of liquid seaweed also helps prevent powdery mildew as it alkalises the leaves of the plants. Be vigilant for yellow and black ladybirds as they help spread powdery mildew.

When you harvest your squash, make sure you leave a good strong stem on. If the pumpkin doesn’t have a stem, it’s the first place rot will set in.

Then add a large handful or a small cup of baking soda to a bucket of water. Stir it in, making sure it’s all dissolved. Dip each squash in the solution, immersing it thoroughly. This solution alkalises the skin of the squash, and helps to keep it from rotting.

Then find a sunny spot to dry them out. We suggest the roof of a north-facing shed which is sloping so rain will run off. This way the skin of the squash bakes, making it hard and more resistant to disease and rot. Make sure the squash don’t touch each other. Leave them here for about 10 days. It’s not a good idea to leave them on the soil they grew in, as it can be damp which increases the likelihood of rotting.

Now they’re ready for storing. Either lay them on a bed of straw or wood chips, or use drying racks, which have good air circulation. The key thing is that they don’t touch anything or each other, otherwise rot sets in.

Buttercup will store for 3-4 months, and squash like Whangaparaoa Crown, Ironbark and Butternut will last for 8-9 months.

Pumpkin and Beetroot Salad

½ cup quinoa
2 cups water
½ pumpkin, chopped into small pieces
2-3 large beetroot, chopped into small pieces
olive oil for roasting
juice and grated rind of 1 large lemon
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 spring onions, chopped finely
100g feta cheese
large bunch parsley, chopped
2 tablespoons each of pumpkin and sunflower seeds

Place pumpkin and beetroot in two separate dishes lined with cooking paper, drizzle olive oil over each dish, season with sea salt and pepper. Roast in oven at 180 degrees Celsius for 40-50 minutes until firm but cooked.
While oven is still warm, put pumpkin and sunflower seeds in to roast for 5-10 minutes.
Boil quinoa in water with a ¼ teaspoon sea salt until the water is almost absorbed. Turn off heat, put the lid on and leave for 10 minutes to steam through and cool slightly.
Combine cooked quinoa, lemon juice and rind, spring onions, parsley and olive oil and mix well.
To serve, layer the quinoa mixture on the base of the plate. Add roasted pumpkin next, then beetroot carefully (beetroot stains everything, so once it’s on the plate you don’t want to disturb it).
Crumble the feta cheese over the salad, and garnish with pumpkin and sunflower seeds.

This is a generous dish, and due to the inclusion of quinoa could feed 4 people for a vegetarian main course easily. According to the USDA nutrient database, 1 cup of cooked quinoa (185 g) contains 8.14 grams of protein.