Why pumpkins are one of the most versatile autumnal vegetables

Pumpkins tend to be either soup or roasted, but they’re also fabulous in scones and pie.

Words: Jenny Garing

Pumpkin is a powerhouse of nutrients, beneficial for physical and mental health. It’s also one of the most versatile vegetables, as you can cook with it in so many ways, including:

• bread
• hummus
• pie
• ravioli
• risotto
• smoothies
• soup

There’s even pumpkin beer, a seasonal thanksgiving drink in the US autumn, usually with a sweet, spicy pumpkin flavour. Not enormously popular with beer fans, but fun for some.

Pumpkins are easy to grow. Ours do everything themselves, self-seeding and growing in the weirdest spots around the garden, one even catching a ride up a climbing rose. If you’re not a gardener, pumpkins are cheap to buy through autumn and winter.


1. Pumpkin is high in fibre – one cup contains 3g and is just 49 calories – so adding it to a meal helps you feel full for longer.

2. One cup also contains around 400mg of potassium – about half that of a banana – which is important for heart health.

3. It’s a good source of the amino acids tryptophan, phenylalanine, and tyrosine (associated with mood-regulating neurotransmitters).

4. Just half a cup of toasted pumpkin seeds has 92 percent of your daily requirements for tryptophan and magnesium. They’re also a delicious snack roasted or raw. I have a jar of toasted pumpkin, sunflower and sesame seeds that I sprinkle over salads and soups for added texture and flavour.

5. Pumpkin is one of a few foods with a near-perfect balance of omega-3 fatty acids to omega-6 fatty acids – a ratio of 1:1 – helping the body manage inflammation.

6. You can use it as a substitute in almost any recipe calling for other types of squash.

Nani’s Pumpkin Pie

Nani was my maternal grandmother. She liked to make American desserts for my mum and her brother, even though she’d never been to the US. My mum would come home from school in the 1950s to find snacks such as fresh, hot pumpkin doughnuts waiting for her.

Nani’s pumpkin pie was a regular at family dinner parties. It’s so simple to make once you bake the pumpkin, and incredibly delicious served with a dollop of whipped cream.

Serves: 6-8

Time: 90 minutes


1 sheet of short sweet pastry
450g pumpkin (skin and seeds removed), cubed
1 egg
2 tsp flour
½ cup milk
½ tsp cinnamon
2 tsp golden syrup
½ tsp salt
pinch ground ginger
pinch nutmeg
2 tbsp sugar


Pre-heat the oven to 200˚C, and line a baking tray with baking paper.

Bake the pumpkin cubes for around 40 minutes or until golden and soft. Push through a sieve to create a pumpkin pulp – you should end up with one cup of cooked pulp.

Line a pie plate with short pastry – I use shop-bought as it’s difficult to make.

Beat the egg, then add the pumpkin and all the remaining ingredients, mixing thoroughly.

Pour the pie filling onto the pastry – sprinkle a little more cinnamon or nutmeg on top if you like.

Bake for 40 minutes at 200˚C. Serve with whipped cream or ice cream.


One of the most common fails when you’re making pumpkin pie is ending up with a soggy bottom. To avoid this:

1. Ensure your oven is at the right temperature – use an oven thermometer to ensure it’s accurate.

2. Place in the lower third of the oven – essentially the filling is a custard, and you need to be careful not to overcook it while still getting a good crust to the pastry.

3. Fresh pumpkin contains a lot of water. If you don’t reduce its moisture levels, the pie filling can be watery. Roasting removes some water, but to lower it more, heat the cooked pulp on the stove for 10 minutes or so.

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