Pumpkins and squashes are in season now and you mustn’t be afraid of cooking with them, according to Ben Brown who grows a great many of them in the Arreton valley. Call in at Farmer Jacks farm shop at Arreton Old Village and you can pick up one of his colourful fruits as they are currently brightening up the vegetable display.
“We grow between five and six varieties. All different colours, sizes and flavours,” said Ben. “Pie Star pumpkin is the first to be harvested, which is an American variety of culinary pumpkin about the size of a small football and is great for sweet pies and soups.
“Next to be harvested are the munchkins – tiny ones that are great roasted and have an interesting nutty flavour. Then we have two types of Kabocha, the green and the red, with the red one coming later and having much denser and heavier flesh. It’s best for roasting and is fluffy like a roast potato. The Crown Prince is the best all round one and has a really good flavour for soups and roasting. Bembridge Bakery is currently using the Kabochas and the Crown Prince in their sourdough bread.
“The skin on a squash is the difficult bit to get off, but you need to throw it on a hard floor so that you can get it to split. Or you can roast them whole – it’s easier to get into them that way. With all squashes the pips can be eaten too – pan fry them with garlic, rosemary and salt.
“They’re not exactly English,” said Ben of the origins of his squashes. “Crown Prince is American as is Pie Star – they make a lot of pumpkin pies in America and this one is the best. Kabochas are Japanese and Harlequins and Munchkins are European. The Italians are heavily into the folklore of squash, which is all to do with it being a winter store food. You can make squash gnocci, fillings for raviolis, soups, roasts, purees and it’s often used in baby food manufacture.
“Our farm has been growing squash for about ten years and I came back to work for the family business AE Brown six years ago,” said Ben who spent some time travelling the world before returning home. “We plant the squash at the end of April/beginning of May and harvest from the middle to the end of October. Squash are very first frost sensitive.
“Then we put them somewhere warm to dry out and then somewhere dry to be stored. They will keep until around March, although we sell all of our squashes and we run out by January or February. Quite a lot are shipped to the mainland.”
If you want to try cooking with squash then here’s a simple recipe for roasting them. This would make an ideal accompaniment to any Sunday lunch or, if you are celebrating it, Thanksgiving dinner this Thursday (November 24th), or a side dish for Christmas lunch.
Preparation Time: 15 minutes Cooking Time: 45 minutes Serves four as a main dish.
1 squash, peeled, seeds discarded and the flesh chopped into 1 inch wedges or chunks
1 red onion, cut into wedges (optional)
2 smoked garlic cloves, chopped very finely
The kernels from one sweetcorn cob (optional)
Fresh rosemary and thyme
One large glass of white wine or diluted veg stock if you prefer
One small tub of double cream, or creme fraiche
A handful of shaved parmesan cheese
Toasted breadcrumbs (optional)
A knob of butter
- Preheat the oven to 180C
- Arrange the squash and additional vegetables (not the garlic) in an ovenproof serving dish
- Pour over the wine or diluted veg stock and add the herbs
- Put in the oven for about 30 minutes, or until the squash is nearly cooked
- In a small pan, melt the butter and very gently soften the garlic – don’t allow it to burn
- Add the cream to the butter and let it heat through, but not boil
- Take the squash out of the oven, pour over the cream and stir through. Sprinkle over the breadcrumbs
- Put back into the oven for 15 minutes, then sprinkle the cheese over the top and serve with crusty bread.