Pumpkins have been grown for centuries and it is thought they originated in South America.
The terms pumpkin and squash are often used interchangeably, however, the term pumpkin generally describes winter squash that are hard-skinned, hard-fleshed, mature fruit.
There are many different varieties available and while they vary in taste and texture, most can be used interchangeably in recipes. Flavour varies with variety, growing conditions and season. Therefore buttercup squash grown at Pukekohe may taste quite different to the same variety grown in Marlborough. Similarly, pumpkins grown in the same area may taste different each season.
Supermarket squash have a very dark green hard skin and are simialr in shape to buttercup squash, however they have strong ribbed skin, whereas a buttercup is smoother. The skin can often change from green to an orangey colour with age.
They weigh about 1.5kgs with a diameter of 10-15cm, have orange flesh and a very sweet flavour. Supermarket squash have a very good shelf life and are often found on retail shelves in the winter when other local squash types are no longer available.
They have dark, rich green, hard skin with speckles and stripes and a round flat shape. Generally 15-20 cm in diameter and weigh about 1.5kg, the flesh is a fine-textured orange to dark yellow with a slightly sweet flavour. Immature buttercups have a paler flesh. The skin is softer than other pumpkin or squash types and therefore they have a shorter shelf life.
They have a creamy beige skin and an elongated shape thicker at one end. They have orange flesh and a sweet flavour. Flavour varies with variety, growing conditions and season.
Crown or grey
They have a hard blue/grey skin, with a rich orange flesh. Crown pumpkins are about 30 cm in diameter, 10 cm deep, and weigh about 4kg. The most common variety sold in New Zealand is Whangaparoa. Because of their hard skin they keep well and are usually available all year round.
They have pale yellow skin with light yellow flesh and are 20-30 cm long. Either bake whole or cut into quarters and steam. Once cooked, spaghetti squash can be scooped out and incorporated into recipes and used like pasta. Spaghetti squash have limited availability and are generally available in the early months of the year.
Kumi kumi are round to oval in shape with heavy ribbing. Immature kumi kumi are about the size of a tennis ball, have a nutty flavour, a speckled green soft skin with white-green flesh and are used like courgettes. Mature kumi kumi have a speckled green hard skin, are about the size of a netball, have a deep white flesh and are used like buttercup squash. Available December - April.
These pumpkins have a bright orange skin that is very hard and knobbly. The flesh is very dense and is deep orange in colour. The most common variety is Red Warren.
Mini squash or yumpkins
These are small and may have green, yellow or orange skins. There are many varieties of small squash that are increasing in popularity. Each has slightly different characteristics and flavour. Varieties include sun drop, orange minikin, red hub, sunset squash, sweet mischief, and white acorn. Mini squash have also become popular for decorative purposes – coated with polyurethane, they will last a long time in an arrangement. Supply, although year round, is limited with a better supply in the north.
What to look for
Choose firm pumpkins and squash that have undamaged skin and feel heavy for their size. Select mature pumpkin and squash; they will be shiny or slightly slippery to feel, while an immature one will be slightly sticky. Another indication is brown flecks (or corking) on the stem – the more flecks, the more mature.
Store in a cool, dark, dry place. Once cut, scoop out the seeds, wrap the flesh in plastic film and refrigerate.
How to prepare
Pumpkin and squash are interchangeable and can be used in similarrecipes. Some varieties have very tough skins that are difficult to cut so can be cooked with the skin on and then the flesh can be removed.
For pumpkin or squash with softer skins, cut in half, then divide into sections, remove seeds, cut to requirements and cut skin off if required. Cook until tender.
To bake whole: pierce the skin, or cut out the stem section of the pumpkin and remove the seeds. Replace the stem section and bake in the oven or microwave until tender.
To stuff: remove top stalk end, scoop out seeds, stuff as required, replace top lid and bake in the oven or microwave until soft to touch.
Suggested cooking methods
Bake, boil, steam, microwave, roast, stew, stuff.
|Serving size: ½ cup - 114g|
|Fat, total (g)||0.5||0.7%||0.4|
|- saturated (g)||0.2||0.8%||0.2|
|- sugars (g)||7.0||8%||6.1|
|Dietary fibre (g)||2.5||8%||2.2||Contains dietary fibre|
|Vitamin A Equiv. (µg)||604||81% RDI*||530||A good source of vitamin A Equiv.|
|Vitamin C (mg)||21.7||54% RDI*||19.0||A good source of vitamin C|
|Vitamin E (mg)||1.3||13% RDI*||1.1||A source of vitamin E|
Percentage Daily Intakes are based on an average adult diet of 8700 kJ
Source: The Concise New Zealand Food Composition Tables, 10th Edition, Plant & Food Research - 2014
Pumpkins and squash are a good source of vitamin A, containing high levels of the carotenoids (alpha-carotene, beta-carotene and beta-cryptoxanthin) which the body converts to vitamin A (some more than others). The stronger the colour of the flesh, the more carotenoids the pumpkin will contain. Pumpkin is also a good source of vitamin C and a source of vitamin E plus contains dietary fibre and potassium at levels of dietary significance. Buttercup squash is a good source of folate and a source of dietary fibre, vitamin E and niacin plus contains potassium. While pumpkin is lower in carbohydrate and calories compared to vegetables of similar texture like kumara or potatoes, buttercup squash has a similar carbohydrate and calorie content to potatoes. The most abundant phytonutrients in pumpkins are the range of carotenoids which as well as being a source of vitamin A are being investigated for other heath benefits.
Do not stack too high or there will be too much weight on the pumpkins at the bottom. Offer whole, or pieces of pumpkin which should be wrapped. Use the QR code on labels.
Store at 12-14°C with an 85% relative humidity.
Purchase pumpkins with the New Zealand GAP logo.
For these images and many more please visit our image library.