There are many pumpkin types in Australia. Pumpkin is very versatile, quite cheap per kilo and can be used on its own or in savoury or sweet recipes. Some pumpkin varieties are available year round in Australia, but official pumpkin season and when you’ll find them in abundance in the farmers markets and fresh food aisles of the supermarket, is March, making it the perfect vegetable to cook when the weather starts getting colder in the lead up to winter.
How to choose the best pumpkin
The trick to choosing the best pumpkin at the supermarket is to knock on it. A ripe pumpkin will make a hollow sound. The best pumpkins at the store will have tough, hard shells (or rinds). While the colour isn’t too important (forget the super orange pumpkin stereotype from Halloween movies), avoid any soft spots, signs of mould or cuts in the rind.
Choosing the right time to harvest a pumpkin directly off the plant is as simple as looking at the vine. The pumpkin is ripe for the picking if the vine is dry and the stem is brown and hard.
How to store pumpkin
Whole pumpkins are best stored in a cool, dry and well ventilated place. Pre-cut pumpkin is best stored in the fridge. Once cooked, store pumpkin or foods containing pumpkin in the fridge. If freezing pumpkin, please be aware that the texture will change and be more mushy after defrosted, so it is best used for pumpkin puree or soups.
How to cook pumpkin
Pumpkin can be cooked in so many ways! You can purchase pumpkin pre-pureed or canned, which is best for sweet recipes like pumpkin pie. You can also microwave, bake, boil or steam pumpkin.
If you’re a gardener and have lots of space, you may consider growing your own crop. Pumpkin vines can be quite prolific, the vegetables can be quite large depending on variety and the seeds need a bit of space between them, so it’s best to have lots of space. Pumpkins need moist soil and lots of sun. It’s best to start growing your pumpkins in spring or summer. Pumpkin is relatively easy to grow, but harvesting them can be a chore! Check out a detailed guide on how to grow pumpkins here.
Types of Pumpkin in Australia
Size and weight: Dumpling pumpkins are one of the smallest pumpkin varieties and are around the size of a large fist. They are around 400-500 grams each.
Shape and colour: With a slightly flatter appearance, dumpling pumpkins are distinctive for their ‘caved in’ tops. Their skin is thinner and whitish in colour with mottled, dark green striping.
Taste: Dumpling pumpkin has a smooth texture and a mild but sweet flavour.
Best way to cook: Dumpling pumpkins are ideal for roasting, baking and steaming. As they have a lumpy exterior they are hard to peel so best cooked with the skin on. They can be served as a standalone dish or stuffed.
Recipe recommendation: Chilli pepper pumpkin with Asian veg
Nutrition: Dumpling pumpkin contains many good vitamins such as folate, riboflavin and vitamins A and B. It’s high in fibre and 1 cup is approx 30 calories.
Jap (Kent) pumpkin
Size and weight: Jap, or Kent, pumpkins are a common variety and one of the largest. The average weight of a Jap pumpkin is 4kgs.
Shape and colour: Jap pumpkins are squat and large with mottled green skin that sometimes has brown or yellow patches depending on the variety.
Taste: Jap pumpkin is quite sweet and has a firm texture.
Best way to cook: Because of its sweetness, Jap pumpkin is great if given space to shine. Steam or bake it and serve in quiches, salads and as a side.
Recipe recommendation: Pumpkin and goat’s cheese bruschetta
Nutrition: Jap pumpkin contains beta carotene, fibre, potassium and vitamins C and E. 1 cup is approx 50 calories.
Gold nugget pumpkin
Size and weight: Gold nugget pumpkins are small and on average weigh 1kg.
Shape and colour: These pumpkins are very round and a dark orange colour.
Taste: Golden nugget pumpkins taste sweet and starchy.
Best way to cook: Golden nugget pumpkins are thin skinned and good for stuffing, baking, roasting and steaming, but unlike other pumpkin varieties the skin should be removed before eating.
Recipe recommendation: Golden pumpkin and sausage risotto
Nutrition: These pumpkins are a great source of vitamin A and C, iron and fibre. 1 cup is approx 40 calories.
Size and weight: Butternut pumpkin are mid-sized and on average they weigh 2kgs.
Shape and colour: Butternut pumpkin is more gourd shaped, with a long body rather than squat and round. It’s a light orange-beige colour.
Taste: Sweet, nutty and dense, this pumpkin is very popular.
Best way to cook: Butternut pumpkin holds its shape and is best for baking, roasting and blending into pumpkin soup.
Recipe recommendation: Butternut pumpkin, sage & walnut honeycomb cannelloni
Nutrition: This pumpkin provides calcium, iron, thiamine and vitamins A, C and E. Slightly higher in calories than other pumpkins, butternut squash has approx 65 calories per cup.
Queensland blue pumpkin
Size and weight: A medium to large sized squash, this Australian pumpkin variety grow all year round and are on average 5kgs.
Shape and colour: As the name suggests, the Queensland blue pumpkin has a distinctive blue/green skin with deep ridges.
Taste: Queensland blue pumpkin has a mild taste that pairs well with most dishes.
Best way to cook: These pumpkins are well suited to boiling, baking, roasting, and steaming. Puree them for dessert recipes.
Recipe recommendation: Pumpkin pie with maple cream
Nutrition: Queensland blue pumpkin is packed with fibre, potassium and vitamins A and C. 1 cup is approx 40 calories.
Size and weight: These pumpkins grow large and weigh on average 5kgs.
Shape and colour: Jarrahdale pumpkins are flat, squat and light grey in colour.
Taste: Similar to the Queensland blue pumpkin, Jarrahdale is mild, dry and versatile.
Best way to cook: Jarrahdale pumpkins are great for soups, stir fries and sides. Bake, boil or roast them.
Recipe recommendation: Pork with Mexican pumpkin and black beans
Nutrition: Vitamin A and potassium abound in Jarrahdale pumpkin. 1 cup is approx 68 calories.
Size and weight: On average, spaghetti squash are 30cms long and 15cms in diameter. They weigh approx 2.5kgs.
Shape and colour: A long, gourd shape with more of an oblong shape than butternut squash, it’s light yellow/beige in colour. The flesh is also lighter in colour than other pumpkins.
Taste: Spaghetti squash has a very mild taste with a hint of sweetness.
Best way to cook: Spaghetti squash can be cooked by halving it and baking the halves face down with some water. Once cooked you can shred the flesh into pumpkin ‘noodles’ and serve as pasta.
Recipe recommendation: Baked spaghetti squash
Nutrition: High in fibre, spaghetti squash is also rich in vitamins, minerals, and potassium.