Pumpkin facts, traditions and super soup!
We did a little digging, to discover why actually there's always such a plethora of pumpkins to be found at this time of year
Obviously they're normally needed for Halloween, we get that. But they take so long to mature and take up so much space! Read on below...
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It transpires from our fact finding that millions of pumpkins are grown in Britain every year - in fact due to the ever-growing demand for the winter squash, UK farmers are producing more and more each year. Britain is even home to Europe’s largest pumpkin grower, in Lincolnshire, producing a whopping 2 million pumpkins per year. But come the end of October, demand drops dramatically – so it does seem quite amazing that it's worth it for the farmers!
However it turns out there's even a best selling book for entrepreneurs called the Pumpkin Plan! It's by Mike Michalowicz, also author of the perennial "business cult classic" The Toilet Paper Entrepreneur, who reveals how applying the same few simple methods farmers use to grow colossal prize-winning pumpkins can lead entrepreneurs to grow colossally successful businesses. As the sales spiel for the book goes, "who would have ever thought, that the key to explosive entrepreneurial success was held by pumpkin farmers?! Yet by tweaking their approach in small ways, farmers can grow giant, prize-winning pumpkins that get all the attention and press coverage." Source: https://pumpkinplan.com. And this is of course true, we've seen plenty of success stories this autumn, not the least emanating from our very own Paton Brothers at Pinetops Nurseries in Lymington!
So, it's clear the pumpkin is quite important!
Pumpkins and their association with Halloween
Which takes us back to how every Halloween - and perhaps even in the midst of Covid this one in this respect won't be so different - glowing orange faces scowl at you from doorsteps, as the Halloween tradition of carving pumpkins commences.
This tradition began in Ireland (that's interesting to know! Not America!) in response to a popular folktale about a man who carried a carved-out turnip filled with glowing coal with him in the afterlife.
Irish immigrants then introduced the custom to America, where the round orange pumpkins we use today are readily available, and the ‘Jack-o’-lantern’ was born.
Since the 1990s, pumpkin carving for Halloween has become an increasingly popular activity across Britain.
A fruit, providing much goodness
Pumpkins are a member of the squash family and are believed to have originated in North America (so that part IS American). Pumpkins are actually a type of fruit and there are around 500 varieties worldwide, growing in many different shapes and sizes. They take up to five months to grow and are harvested in the UK between October and December.
Pumpkin provides an excellent source of vitamins, minerals and fibre, plus the seeds are full of zinc and antioxidants.
And pumpkin festivals are held around the country every Halloween, showing off the art of pumpkin carving.
Even sadly missing our festivals this year, many homes are likely still to display their pumpkins at or near their entrances.
So this might be quite useful: how to carve a pumpkin safely
- Using a sharp knife, cut around the top of the pumpkin.
- With a large spoon, scoop out the seeds and some of the flesh from the inside.
- With a marker, draw out your design on to the pumpkin. Make it as simple or as creative as you like! Then with a smaller sharp knife, begin to carve out your design. Always cut away from you, to avoid any injuries.
- Place a tealight inside the candle, light, and replace the lid of the pumpkin.
Make sure children have adult supervision at all times when carving!
And with pumpkins at their prime, a timely pumpkin super soup recipe
We've tried lots of pumpkin soup recipes over the years and thought this time we'd ask the obvious person, the all-knowing Fiona Hill who owns Real Food Catering and who, exactly as anticipated, had a brilliant recipe up her sleeve... so to speak.
Fiona Hill's pumpkin and chestnut soup
"From mid October we are suddenly awash with pumpkins, it's a strange old practice isn't it!
But this is a wonderful time of the year for seasonal vegetables, I personally love soup at any time but now when it's getting colder and wet, a big bowl of homemade soup and a chunk of bread is something to savour and enjoy.
This is one of my favourites, there are many pumpkins and squashes out there but one of the best for me is the grey skinned one, you can get small ones so you don't have to make a cauldron of it, although it does freeze beautifully so more economical to do a big batch.
Top tip: put the pumpkin in the oven to soften it!
So first of all a top tip: the best piece of advice I learned is to put the pumpkin in the oven for about 15 minutes. As then you no longer need a hatchet to open it!
Then you will need a saucepan and a wooden spoon and something to puree the end result, I use a hand blender as it makes less mess to clear up. This will make a big pot so cut it by half or by 4 to make it fit your saucepans.
- 1 grey pumpkin
- 1 pack of celery
- 1 large Spanish onion
- 6 big carrots
- A pack of parsley
- 2 packs of whole chestnut's
- 4 pints of vegetable stock
(It is so easy to make your own stock, I use vegetable stock when I make my soups for sale but then use chicken stock when I make it for the family. To make your own vegetable stock, basically put all the ends of the vegetables you have used for the soup and adding a handful of peppercorns, simmer for an hour and then strain into the semi cooked vegetables. Couldn't be more logical or easier!)
- Chop all the vegetables roughly and putting into a large saucepan with a glug of olive oil and salt and pepper stir till they start to soften.
- Pour on the stock, you can use bought stock if you want to, just enough to cover the vegetables and leave to simmer for 20 minutes.
- Then chop up the chestnuts and parsley, and add for the last 15 minutes.
- When the vegetables are nice and soft turn off the heat and blend in the saucepan. (If you are using a blender please be careful to let it cool as it can spray and a thick liquid can be painful on the skin.)
- I like to serve mine with salted pumpkin seeds, easy to buy in the shops these days, just lightly toast in a dry pan with a pinch of salt crystals. Also a swirl of sour cream is a lovely touch, a homemade seeded roll adds that extra hug.
Enjoy pumpkin season everybody! It's something we CAN nearly all enjoy - almost whatever the Covid restrictions, wherever we are!