IMG_9615

Mission #pumpkinrescue: Thoughts on the comprehensive culinary flexibility of pumpkin, as well as links on juicing, sprouting, fermenting Harry Potter style and DIY skin treatments…

Hubbub is sponsoring the Oxford Pumpkin Festival with days of interesting events around the town to highlight the huge waste of an edible resource that happens every year at Halloween.  The hashtagged “#pumpkinrescue ” will collect ideas about how we can all waste less pumpkin and squash in general.   It’s a recipe and resource festival really, and with its concern for sustainability, a nice addition to the orchestra playing every pumpkin tune from Thai Pumpkin Lemongrass Soup to Vegan Pumpkin Chai Latte in the foody echo-chamber I seem to inhabit.

If  you do a search for “pumpkin recipes,” you will fall down a rabbit hole, both inspirational and overwhelming in scope.  It’s almost as if the food media’s zeal to cover pumpkins forgets to say something really basic.  So I’m saying it now.

If you find yourself adrift in the world of pumpkins (and winter squashes in general), think of them as an ingredient that’s relevant across the whole culinary spectrum. Given basic preparation (steamed, baked, roasted, grated, whatever), pumpkins are invariably useful and usable, therefore a gift rather than a curiousity or a burden.

This is true for sweets: in bread, cakes, quick breads/ tea cakes /muffins, pies, tarts, pancakes, smoothies…

And savouries too: stews, curries, fritters, soups, pasta sauces, baked pasta, with any grain or rice, fritatta and egg dishes, gratins, salads…

Pickles: fermented, vinegar, chutney.  Jam, Pumpkin “butter”…

You get the idea!  Really, instead of trawling the multitude of “best pumpkin recipe” sites — which you can do, and which indeed are most inspirational — think of what you want to make, what you have on hand, what flavours you’re in the mood for, and plug that info into the Dinner Destiny Roulette called the internet.  Or make something up.  Pumpkins and squash can inspire creativity, because they are just so flexible and delicious.  I really feel this is the basic place from which we need to approach the how-to and really open up kitchen confidence.

(One of these days I’m going to write about how recipe culture combined with the “food porn” / celebrity chef phenomena can actually be disempowering in food and cooking education. This is a polemic just about to burst into bubble for me!)

I love that Jack Monroe suggests just cooking the pumpkin and then chilling or freezing to have on hand.  I might choose to bake or roast so that “chunks” remain an option, but the approach is basically the same, to keep your options open.

I’m not convinced that pumpkins which have been carved into lanterns are too terribly useful to cook with.  If they’ve been sitting out and had a candle, they might be icky inside.  If you scooped out too much flesh before carving, would the face and shape hold up structurally?  Though of course all the bits that get carved out are largely usable.  Trust your judgement.  Plus there are many pumpkins that never get carved at all — these must be included in the stats that make the sordid tale of waste.  People just need to know the possibilities!

Here’s my son scooping out the seeds sleeping in that nest of hairy, fibrous pulp…

.IMG_9607

It’s these seeds you soak in water, to release them from those strands, preparing for what comes next.  In the past I’ve used that to make Pumpkin Scrap Vinegar.  And I throw seeds and pulp and skin (when organic) into vegetable stocks for soup.  Most winter squash I soak the seeds then dry them, to roast in a fast oven in a little oil and spices.  The seeds pictured were roasted in Nettle Salt and curry powder, and were more-ish indeed. Follow your bliss regarding spices and dried herbs– I can’t think of anything that wouldn’t work.  Ethiopian Berbere? Zaytoun Fairtrade Zaatar?  Coconut oil and dried ginger? Naked as the day you were born? It’s all good!

IMG_9628

Meanwhile it occurred to me, these are SEEDS! Seeds that represent a new beginning, and I know that when they wind up in the warm humidity of a compost bin, they sprout.  Could I get them to do the same in a bit of moist compost inside my home?  It’s certainly worth a try, because I’m sure pumpkin sprouts are super tasty!  Here’s a useful post to guide us

IMG_9586

This is a plastic tub, encased in a re-used plastic bag, sitting near an intermittent radiator in the kitchen.  Please sprout, please sprout, please!  When they do (not if! ) I’ll post a pic…  Little beacons of green are just so welcome in autumn and winter especially….

Another thoughs: whatever pumpkin and seeds you have, you could juice, if you have access to a juicer.

And though I haven’t compiled many recipes for you this time, I would like to share this Mexican dessert for the Day of the Dead, because it sounds so good.

As well this bright flavoured and imaginative rendering of Harry Potter Juice which would be a good way indeed to get kids to drink something with all those lacto-fermented goodies.

One last #pumpkinrescue thought, because playing beauty parlour is pretty fun:  Harness the power of DIY alpha-hydroxy acids, especially if you have any teenage skin in the house