Plastic pumpkins have been occupying quite a lot of my thoughts for the past ten days. I know, I need to get out more but, the truth of the matter is that, if I hadn't got out I might never have been shocked into the knowledge that such vegetable impersonations actually exist.
Here on Orkney where I am writing this post I have seen plastic pumpkinettes in shop windows as part of the now ubiquitous Hallowe'en displays - how did we ever get to the point whereby the spooky celebration of 31st October is now the second most profitable 'sales opportunity' after Christmas? Herrumph.
OK, maybe plastic pumpkins in shop windows is not so bad but I first saw plastic pumpkins at RHS Wisley, that temple to horticultural excellence and genteel shopping. I could scarcely believe my eyes! Was this a consumerist step too far that might cause Mary Berry to relinquish her role as a RHS Ambassador for Grow Your Own?
Once my heart rate returned to normal I started to think that maybe, just maybe, a plastic pumpkin as a lantern was actually a good thing? That is, for those who buy a pumpkin simply to make a lantern and waste the flesh which could be made into any number of delicious dishes. And the more I thought about it, the more convinced I became, although pumpkin farmers who have come to rely on sales for Hallowe'en lanterns may have to balance waste and profit in this particular argument.
Today is apparently National Pumpkin Day - how could I not know that until I saw it on social media at tea-time?! I saw this excellent little video on Twitter that made me think, again, that plastic pumpkins might actually be a good thing.
I must, however, advance the argument that we need to cook far more with pumpkins and squashes than we currently do. They are fun to grow, store well and are the first step towards huge numbers of truly delicious dishes. I should know as I have written a whole book on cucurbits and people who have it are always so full of enthusiasm for the recipes. So here are a few of my favourite pumpkin dishes from a previous blog and, if you are making a lantern in the good old fashioned way, do give at least one a try.
Top tip: To make your own pumpkin purée, peel and dice some pumpkin - or roughly chop the results of hollowing out your Hallowe'en lantern - and steam or microwave (without water) until tender. Beat to a purée or blend, then allow any excess liquid to drain from the purée if it is very wet. This is best done by leaving it for 30 mins in a muslin-lined sieve over a bowl. The 'water' can be added to soups etc.