Earth continues its celestial marathon sending us slowly from summer into autumn, bringing some cooler weather and an excuse to wear a scarf or maybe try out a beret. Nature, meanwhile, will be taking its orange ensemble out of the wardrobe: soon the footpaths will be enveloped in a cascade of fiery foliage, just as the fields are already bejewelled with delicious ripe pumpkins, waiting to be harvested.
At LPG’s Lancaster Farms, the pumpkin harvest is well underway. Located in the Goulburn Valley region of Victoria, about 200km north of Melbourne, Lancaster Farms’ of pumpkin fields are now bearing fruit (that’s right, the pumpkin is technically a fruit: it grows on a vine, like an engorged orange grape). In the distance, inching through this vast sea of green one cooler May morning is what looks like an open train carriage, pulled by tractor instead of locomotive. Wading along knee-deep next to the carriage are our hardworking harvesters, picking up each pumpkin, occasionally dusting off a little soil, then placing it on a conveyer belt to be taken up to the carriage platform where enormous cardboard bins are waiting to be filled. From there, the pumpkins will be taken back for a second quality inspection, before being packed off to shops and supermarkets for the discerning consumer (perhaps sporting a beret).
The pumpkin harvest runs through March and April, keeping fruit store and supermarket shelves across the country stocked with the sweet, nutty flavour of the Butternut and the mottled grey-green exterior of the Kent throughout the cooler seasons. Butternut pumpkins are versatile, great for roasting or turning into soup, while the Kent variety are excellent cooked whole in their skins, allowing the soft flesh to retain its depth of flavour. Aside from these two classic pumpkin varieties, LPG has a new guy in town this autumn: the Butterkin. Bursting with flavour and easy to peel, this pumpkin is bred to be smaller and flatter, making it the ideal size for making a meal.
Roast it, bake it, turn it into a soup – whatever your inclination, the vibrant orange flesh of autumn’s posterchild will not only keep your tastebuds happy, it will also give your body a boost. Pumpkins are particularly rich in vitamin A, which is great for supporting the immune system, and antioxidants, which have been shown to reduce the risk of chronic disease. It’s winner, winner, pumpkin dinner!