Josine Atsma takes a look at seasonal October fruit and veg in Scotland, focusing on pumpkins and squashes with a great recipe for Spicy Pumpkin Soup.
Who hasn’t heard of Halloween and the use of pumpkins to make lanterns? But did you know that originally turnips where used in Scotland? And that it was the Scots, when they moved to America, who adopted the pumpkin because they are bigger and easier to scoop out!
Halloween is a pagan tradition dating back to when druids roamed the lands and Christianity was still unheard of. The word Halloween actually comes from ‘Samhain’ the pagan name for the same festival. Lighting a pumpkin (or turnip if you’re brave) was also done by the druids, so this tradition goes way, way back!
Anyway, pumpkins are in season right now and besides using them as lanterns, you can, of course, eat the flesh and seeds too.
Pumpkins, gourds and squashes all belong to the cucurbit family. There is no difference between pumpkins and squashes. Gourds, however, are generally not edible. There are many different types but it pays off to choose a variety where it says it can be grown in Britain.
Pumpkins and squashes are heat loving plants, so growing them in Scotland can be tricky. If you succeed, however, they make a fantastic vegetable to grow! They really don’t like frost, so you start sowing indoors in May and planting them out in June. One of the local farmer’s markets vegetable stalls (Bellfield Organics if you live in the Central Belt) told me they grow their pumpkins and squashes with black plastic to cover the ground surrounding the plants. This keeps the soil warm and black soaks up heat as well.
Despite this advice I have only once been able to grow these plants outdoors and that was when I still lived in a village slightly lower down the hill. Here in Glendevon, which is 700ft up and very exposed, I only seem to be able to grow pumpkins in my greenhouse. I think that if you live in a town or city you’ll be able to have more success.
Pumpkin plants do take over your garden though, so only grow them if you have plenty of space. They need at least 1m2! But preferably 2+. In October you can start harvesting them. Leave them on the plant as long as possible but beware of early frosts! When you harvest them, cut off some of the stem too and lay them in a sunny window sill for a week or so, to let the skin harden even more. This way you can store them for months and months. I have even used my own home grown pumpkin for my Christmas meal!
Fresh October fruit and veg include:
Pumpkins, squashes, carrots, onions, potatoes, all types of cabbages, turnips, parsnips, courgettes & tomatoes (from unheated greenhouse or poly tunnels), beetroot, kale, radishes, mushrooms, apples, pears, late plums, late raspberries (beginning only), quinces.
October fruit and veg recipe
Spicy Pumpkin Soup
This recipe is vegan, vegetarian, gluten & wheat free (if not using bread), egg free and dairy free.
1 onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped in chunks
½ pumpkin or butternut squash, peeled and cut
100g red lentils
1 tbsp Garam masala
Ground turmeric to taste
1 tsp sugar
For the Tarka:
1 tsp black mustard seeds
1 ½ tsp fenugreek seeds
1 onion, finely chopped
Put all the cut and chopped vegetables into boiling water and simmer uncovered for around 30 minutes. Stir in the spices and sugar and simmer for a further 15 minutes (or until the lentils are soft).
To make the Tarka (not the otter!) – Heat the vegetable oil into a frying pan and fry the onion with the seeds until the onion has softened. Stir in with the vegetable/lentil dish.
Serve with bread or toast.
By the way…
I have lots more tasty, seasonal, plant-based recipes available on my website. Please follow this link to take a look. I hope you like them!