What to eat in
Pumpkins are not just for Hallowe'en! Try making spicy soup or bake a traditional pumpkin pie. And look out for local apples this month too
“An apple a day keeps the doctor away”, and with British apple season in full swing there's no better time to make sure you include an apple in your five-a-day. Reaching for an apple, rather than a less healthy snack, really could help keep you well – apples are full of anti-oxidants and vitamins, and are low in calories, high in fibre and virtually fat-free.
For locally grown apples, check out Farmers' Markets – or attend an Apple Day event. Stewing and freezing apples is a great way to preserve them for the winter months ahead – simply defrost for a quick pie or crumble, or add to your morning porridge.
A speedy apple pastry can be made by spreading apricot jam onto small squares of ready-rolled puff pastry. Top with thin slices of apple, and a sprinkling of sugar and mixed spice, and bake at 200°C for 10 minutes.
Apples work well in savoury dishes, too. They're perfect with pork, but can also be added to a chicken casserole along with cider and cream, or to a curry along with a handful of sultanas.
They're also delicious in a salad – try spinach, chopped apples and goats' cheese, topped with toasted pine nuts. For a crunchy salad, combine chunks of apple and celery with pieces of walnut and some blue cheese dressing. Grated apples can be added to shredded white cabbage and grated carrots, along with a dressing of equal parts Greek yoghurt and mayonnaise, for a fruity coleslaw.
There will be plenty of pumpkins around during October – many of them carved into spooky lanterns for Halloween.
But, according to environmental charity , around 15.8 million pumpkins are discarded each year without being eaten.
Given the versatility of this delicious autumn vegetable – it can be transformed into all sorts of tasty dishes, from savoury soups to sweet pies – this waste is a real shame.
So if you carve a pumpkin this month, be sure not to discard the flesh – and the seeds are edible too.
Roasted pumpkin seeds are a good source of protein, fibre and zinc, so can be a healthy snack. To roast them, put them in a bowl and stir in a spoonful of olive oil and a pinch of salt, then spread out on an oiled baking tray. Sprinkle with a little ground cumin and coriander and bake at 140°C for 15 minutes.
Pumpkins are just one example of the many varieties of winter squash that are available at this time of year. Butternut squash is the one you're most likely to encounter in the supermarket, but also look out for Uchiki Kuri (pictured below, right) with its distinctive, nutty flavour; the wonderfully ornamental Turk's Turban; and spaghetti squash, which has stringy flesh that can be used as low calorie substitute for pasta. Although you may not be able to carve these into scary lanterns, they're every bit as delicious as pumpkins – and just as versatile in the kitchen.
Spicy pumpkin and parsnip soup
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 large cloves garlic, crushed
1 small red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
2cm piece of root ginger, peeled and finely chopped
600g pumpkin flesh, cubed
1 large parsnip, peeled and diced
1 litre vegetable stock
pinch of salt
A little fresh double cream and snipped chives, to finish
Heat the oil in a large saucepan and cook the onions over a medium heat until soft and golden. Add the garlic, chilli and ginger and cook for a further 5 minutes, then add the pumpkin, parsnip and vegetable stock.
Simmer gently for 30 minutes, until the vegetables are soft. Blend with a hand blender or in a food processor. Add a pinch of salt, to taste, then pour into serving bowls and add a swirl of double cream and a sprinkle of snipped chives. Serve with fresh, crusty bread.
Most importantly, when you've finished with your carved Halloween pumpkin, don't leave it to rot in your garden or dump it in the countryside. Eating pumpkins can make some animals, such as hedgehogs, birds and badgers poorly.
Pumpkins contain much more fibre than many wild foods, and can cause upset stomachs. This is a particular problem for hedgehogs that have built up fat reserves before hibernation – and they could become badly dehydrated. Left to rot, pumpkins become mouldy, which can be harmful – especially for birds.
Instead, dispose of pumpkins in your compost bin or council food waste bin. Or you can cut it into pieces and bury it in your garden under 20cm soil, where it can be enjoyed by the worms!
How to eat pumpkins
Roasted pumpkin is quick and easy – toss cubed pumpkin flesh in olive oil, season with salt and freshly ground black pepper and bake for 20-30 minutes in a hot oven, until soft. Enjoy as a side vegetable, or add to risottos, soups or pies.
Little Green Space: article updated October 2023
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