The many varieties of pumpkin and winter squash are characterised by hard orange or yellow flesh, a hollow centre with pith and seeds, and a tough skin. Popular across the world, pumpkins are part of the squash family and come in an array of different sizes and shapes. Enjoy pumpkins from October to early January.
A whole pumpkin will keep for a couple of months in a cool dry place, but because of its big size, is usually sold in manageable wedges. Store in the fridge and use within a couple of days.
IN THE KITCHEN
Remove the tough skin with a sharp knife and cut away any stringy fibres and seeds from the centre, before cooking. Pumpkin seeds make a great snack when hulled, roasted and salted, and also add crunchy texture to granola and muffins
After cooking, tender pumpkin flesh develops a soft creamy texture and sweet flavour, which works well with warming spices - nutmeg, ginger and cinnamon. It's also good with citrus fruits, coconut, maple syrup and toasted nuts.
Besides being used for Halloween lanterns, cooked, pureed pumpkins make tastefully creamy soups, sweet pies, and breads. Ring the changes by adding chunks to meaty stews and curries.
Pumpkin pie, flavoured with cinnamon and other spices is to American Thanksgiving what plum pudding is to British Christmas. It's also excellent for cakes and scones.
Roasting is one of the best ways to highlight its natural character - cut the pumpkin into 4cm chunks, tip into a roasting tin, and drizzle with olive oil and cook at 200C/gas 6, until tender - about 45 minutes. Try adding a few sage leaves or rosemary sprigs to the tin before cooking. Serve it on its own, or mixed with vegetables such as onions and peppers.
Boil and add pumpkin flesh to risotto, or purée and use as a ravioli filling, soup base or an alternative to mashed potatoes. It goes very well with sage and oregano, garlic and rosemary.
Butternut squash can be spotted by its distinctive pear-shaped base and narrow neck. Because of its firm texture, it's ideally suited to braising and roasting and has a pleasing velvety texture.
When cooked, spaghetti squash separates into strands - like spaghetti. Its slightly crunchy texture accommodates rich flavours such as tomato sauces - an all round winner with pasta.