Fruit or vegetable?
Pumpkins are a member of the squash family and are believed to have originated in North America. 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.
Pumpkin festivals are held around the country every Halloween, showing off the art of pumpkin carving © Getty
What is the story behind pumpkin carving?
Every Halloween, glowing orange faces scowl at you from doorsteps, as the Halloween tradition of carving pumpkins commences. This tradition began in Ireland 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 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.
How to carve
This Halloween, learn how to carve the perfect pumpkin with our simple step-by-step guide:
Pumpkin carving is a great family activity © Getty
- 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.
The National Trust are hosting a number of pumpkin-carving workshops. Whether you’re throwing a Halloween party or just looking to scare the neighbours, it’s sure to be a success.
Millions of pumpkins are grown in Britain every year © Getty
Pumpkin farming in the UK
Due to the ever-growing demand for the winter squash, UK farmers are producing more and more each year. In fact, Britain is 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 is it worth it for the farmers? Adam Henson explores the rise of pumpkin farming in the UK and the downfalls of the industry.
Three tasty pumpkin recipes to make this Halloween
Pumpkins have a lot more to offer than just creepy lanterns: they’re also an incredibly versatile ingredient in the kitchen. From creamy soups to sweet pies, there are plenty of ways to incorporate a delicious squash into your cooking. Come the end of All Hallows Eve, there will be many a pumpkin to use up – so why not rustle up something tasty? Celebrate Halloween with these tasty pumpkin recipes from BBC Good Food Magazine
Tom Kerridge’s Pumpkin and Bacon Soup taken from BBC Good Food © BBC Good Food/Peter Cassidy
Tom Kerridge’s pumpkin & bacon soup
Make this tasty pumpkin soup to use up your Halloween glut/Credit: Peter Cassidy
Check your local farmers’ market for Crown Prince pumpkins – they have a silvery, blue-green skin and sweet, firm flesh. Butternut or onion squash are a good alternative.
SERVES 4 PREP 10 mins
COOK 1 hr 10 mins EASY
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 onion, finely chopped
150g maple-cured bacon, cut into small pieces
1/2 Crown Prince pumpkin or onion
Squash, peeled, deseeded and
Cut into medium chunks (you need about 500g pumpkin flesh)
1 litre chicken stock
100ml double cream
3 tbsp pumpkin seeds, toasted
maple syrup, for drizzling
1. In a large, heavy-bottomed pan, heat the oil with 25g butter. Add the onion and a pinch of salt and cook on a low heat for 10 mins or until soft.
2. Add 60g bacon and cook for a further 5 mins until the bacon releases its fat. Then increase the heat to medium, add the pumpkin and stock and season. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer, cover with a lid and cook for about 40 mins until the pumpkin is soft.
Pumpkin, fennel & Taleggio galette
Pumpkin, fennel and taleggio galette/Credit: Helen Cathcart
Serves 6 Ready in 35 mins
Cook 1 hr 30 mins
700g pumpkin or 1 small squash
5 tbsp olive oil
grating of nutmeg
2 small fennel bulbs
juice 1/2 small lemon
1/2 tsp fennel seeds, toasted and coarsely crushed
470g spinach, coarse stalks removed
15g unsalted butter
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 egg yolk mixed with 2 tsp milk (to make an egg wash)
200g Taleggio (or vegetarian alternative), sliced
375g puff pastry
1. Heat oven to 190C/170C fan/gas 5. Peel the squash, then halve and deseed it before cutting the flesh into thick wedges and halving them again to make quarters. Put the slices in a roasting tin with half the olive oil, the nutmeg and seasoning, and toss to coat. Roast for 30 mins, or until tender and a little caramelised.
2. Halve the fennel bulbs lengthways and remove the tops and tough outer leaves from each piece. Trim the base and cut each half into thick wedges, keeping them intact at the base. Put the wedges straight into a bowl and toss with the lemon juice to prevent discolouring. Add the fennel seeds, remaining olive oil and some seasoning, then toss well.
3. Spread the fennel in a roasting tin large enough to hold it in a single layer and cover with foil. Roast the fennel (at the same time as the squash) for 20 mins, or until tender with pale-gold undersides.
4. Wash the spinach and cook in a covered pan over a medium heat for 1-2 mins. When wilted, drain in a colander and leave to cool.
5. Squeeze the excess moisture out of the spinach, chop roughly and season. Melt the butter in a frying pan and quickly fry the spinach with the garlic for 3 mins. Set aside.
6. Roll out the pastry to make the base of the tart, ending up with a piece measuring roughly 28 x 38cm. Put the pastry base on to a floured metal baking sheet. Create a border all the way round by lightly running a knife 2cm from the edge. Prick the rest of the pastry all over with a fork. Put a rectangle of baking parchment, the size of the inside of the border, over the pastry. Weight it down with baking beans. Knock up the sides of the pastry by holding a small knife at a right angle to the pastry and making small indentations to release the layers. This will give you a better rise. Paint the border with the egg wash.
7. Put the pastry in the preheated oven and cook for 25 mins, removing the beans and paper after 15 mins. Take the partially cooked tart base out of the oven and, if the centre has risen, gently flatten it with the back of a wooden spoon. Turn the oven up to 200C/180C fan/gas 6.
8. Spoon the spinach onto the pastry, then put the squash and fennel on top. Distribute the cheese over the top, too. Put the tart back into the oven and cook for a further 25 mins. The cheese should be golden in patches and the pastry should be cooked and golden, but not too dark.
Recipe Supplied From BBC Good Food Magazine
Pumpkin and sage spaghetti
Pumpkin and sage spaghetti/Credit: Peter Williams
This dish is a marriage of the sweet golden pumpkin, which is much loved in Mantua and Cremona in northern Italy, and spaghetti
from further south.
Ready in 35-45 minutes
Suitable for vegetarians
800g/1lb 12oz pumpkin flesh, chopped into small cubes
1 tsp golden caster sugar
Small bunch sage leaves, about
20, roughly chopped
350g/12oz dried spaghetti
Juice of 1 lemon
50g/2oz parmesan, grated
1. Tip the pumpkin into a medium-sized saucepan that has a tight-fitting lid. Sprinkle over the sugar and a generous pinch of salt, then drizzle over 6 tablespoons of water. Cover the pan, place on a medium heat and steam the pumpkin, stirring every so often for 10-15 minutes, or until it is soft but still holds its shape. You may need to add a spoonful or two of water during the cooking if the pan seems dry. Set aside.
2 . While the pumpkin is steaming, tip the butter and sage into a small saucepan and heat gently until the butter is foaming, then turn on the heat. Boil the spaghetti in a big pan of salted water for about 10 minutes until just cooked. When the spaghetti is cooked, scoop out a little of the cooking water, then drain and return the spaghetti to the pan.
3. Put the sage butter over a high heat until sizzling, then pour in the lemon juice and let it splutter for a second. Tip the pumpkin, melted butter, 3-4 tbsp pasta water and half the parmesan in with the spaghetti and give it a really good stir. Season generously with salt and pepper and serve with the remaining parmesan to sprinkle over.
Recipe Supplied From BBC Good Food Magazine
Main image: © Getty