Halloween is almost upon us and here at Caterer’s Club HQ, to get into the seasonal spirit, we have been learning all about the world of pumpkins; or more importantly the need to promote the colourful and nutritious culinary delights!
Halloween takes up a large slice of the British social calendar, much more than it did a decade ago; possibly due to the rising popularity of North America’s cultural charm diffusing across to the UK. Given the pumpkins’ fiery orange hue, it is clear to see why it is used to illuminate homes and provide a colourful glow for retail establishments. However, the autumnal North American ritual of actually eating the pumpkin is yet to take on in the UK.
It has been estimated that 12 million pumpkins are grown in the UK each year. Yet whilst there are about 15 culinary pumpkin varieties, just 3% of the UK’s production is geared specifically towards cooking varieties. Even though the government is actively encouraging people to reduce food waste, the flesh of the many millions of carved pumpkins is likely to go to waste. The flesh is not only edible but highly nutritious: pumpkins are high in fibre and beta-carotene (which the body converts into nutrients).
What our experts say
Steve Whitworth, of Wisbech, Cambridgeshire based Oakley Farms says:
“We are seeing a bit of an increase in edible varieties of cucurbits, including butternut squash and pumpkins. Twenty-odd years ago edibles were sought after, then they weren’t, and now they are coming back in vogue again but it probably ties in with seasonal squash and butternut squash sales.”
Renowned pumpkin grower Paul Southall of D Southall & Sons in Worcestershire also believes the interest in culinary pumpkin varieties has stepped up along with the seasonal availability of squashes and pumpkins. He says:
“My impression is it’s something that’s building up. There’s now good interest in edible pumpkins, and over a reasonable period from September/early October until post-November. I think the whole pumpkin thing is coming together – along with the “monsters” (extra large-sized pumpkins), squash, Halloween… you’d hope that the edible side is part of it all!”
As part of a retail wide drive to reduce waste, large supermarket chains are publishing useful recipe ideas to encourage consumers to use up their pumpkin flesh after carving. Some of the recipes include, soups, salads, pasta dishes, curries, cakes, muffins and pies, to name a few! But are these online resources enough to brew up public interest on a monster-sized scale?
Charlotte Wheeler of Tozer Seeds, Surrey based vegetable breeder believes the industry needs a celebrity face to join the campaign against wasting the pumpkin. Wheeler believes the help of a celebrity chef to make the vegetable fashionable would give the culinary market the boost it needs.
Paul Southall agrees that the edible side of pumpkins needs to be pushed. He added that:
“Fortunately, as Halloween nears, some retails are starting to promote these amber globes.” For instance, supermarket Morrisons, recently posted a link on Twitter to a recipe on its website, resourcefully encouraging people to use up leftover pumpkin flesh.”
It’s a WRAP!
Waste charity WRAP have launched a campaign, Love Food Hate Waste, which has taken to Twitter to promote the fact that there are so many ways to cook a pumpkin. Social media activity is bound to enchant consumers. Perhaps then, the key to growing the pumpkin category is for the fresh produce industry to lend more support by making the most of all forms of communication? This would include social media platforms, endorsement from chefs and in-store recipe cards that run alongside promotions during the Halloween season.
Get in touch!
We love to hear from our members at Caterer’s Club. Do you have any pumpkin recipe ideas? Or perhaps you sell pumpkin based products? Please share this with us by sending any recipes or stories to firstname.lastname@example.org