I grew up eating only one variety of pumpkin: it had a hard green tortoise shell exterior with bright orange flesh. We moved just outside of London soon after I was born, but at least twice a week, we would be on the road to either Ridley or Brixton Market to buy our produce which they didn’t sell in our part of town. The markets were always a busy place, consumed with the strong smell of decaying raw fish, the booming reggae beats from the old record shop which thumped through my chest and the ever-present icon of the Rasta-man who sold sweet smoking incense from his stall at the entrance of the market. I loved going to market, because it was the one time I got to eat fresh beef patties from the bakery as we followed my parents around the stalls to buy our provision.
We could never go to market and walk away without our Yam, Cassava, Dasheen…and piece of Pumpkin. A large yellow eclipse was often found hanging from a fish-hook suspended from a rusty-brown pole which formed part of the scaffolding that held the tent together. The market man or woman often had these mucky knitted gloves on which they had cut holes through so their fingers could breathe. He would take the pumpkin off the hook and with his unsanitized machete would slice through the pumpkin with some difficulty I recall and hand my Dad the piece wrapped up in a brown paper bag. That pumpkin was destined for some peas soup, boiling hot water or a good curry when it got home.
Nowadays I still love the markets and almost every day I pass through Ridley Market on my way to work if for nothing else, nostalgia. It really evokes a lot of memories as many of the same stalls are there, although headed by different people and a wider cross-section of cultures. And I still buy my pumpkin from the market, its purely out of tradition and I love seeing them cut me a measly slice for my one pot of stew just so I can enjoy it the way we use to.
I now appreciate that there are a variety of pumpkins out there and that they go by other more generic names such as Squash and Gourd. But even more than this, each pumpkin has its own particular taste and texture. So this weekend I bought three varieties of pumpkin and thought I should share with you four recipes you can experiment with besides the usual soups and stews. For a flash back moment why not try the Pumpkin Rice I made a few moons ago?
This has a remarkably sweet and tender flesh with a slightly nutty flavor. The skin is often bumpy and dark green in colour and is difficult to cut. This can be enjoyed with a little roasting with a bit of butter or oil and salt . The dense flesh also holds its shaped really well when cooked, even in liquids, which makes it perfect for using as chunks in soups or steamed dishes.
Check out my Kabocha Squash Falafel recipe on the blog.
Shaped like a large pear, this squash has cream-colored skin, deep orange-colored flesh and a sweet flavor. It’s also low in fat, butternut squash delivers an ample dose of dietary fiber, and it provides a large amounts of potassium, important for bone health, and vitamin B6, essential for the proper functioning of both the nervous and immune systems. This Squash’s tangerine hue, however, indicates butternut’s most noteworthy health perk. The color signals an abundance of powerhouse nutrients known as carotenoids, shown to protect against heart disease.
In particular, the gourd boasts very high levels of beta-carotene (which your body automatically converts to vitamin A), identified as a deterrent against breast cancer. With only one cup serving, you get nearly half the recommended daily dose of antioxidant-rich vitamin C.
Try out my Squash Gnocchi (served with steamed kale) for a filling yet satisfying meal.
This is typically a summer squash with distinctive long ridges and sweet, yellow-orange flesh. It’s from the same family as the courgette. this squash has a unique flavor that is a combination of sweet, nutty and peppery.
Again when sliced and roasted, this squash holds its form very well, however I can see it turning into a pulp in stews. So maybe have a try at making my Acorn Squash Parcels for an interesting way to enjoy them!