INGREDIENTS

Buyer's guide

Look for good-quality squashes and pumpkins at farmers’ markets, some supermarkets and Asian and Caribbean greengrocers. Always choose those with smooth, unblemished flesh that feel firm and heavy for their size. Brilliant orange pumpkins can grow to an enormous size, but you can find smaller ‘pie or sugar’ pumpkins or pumpkins sold by the piece. If buying these, make sure the flesh is firm and close-textured, not stringy. Many autumn and winter squashes, despite their name, are now available year-round, but are at their best during the colder months. Pumpkins are in season from autumn to winter.

Storage

Whole, undamaged, firm squashes will keep for several months in a cool, dry, airy place or for 2-3 weeks at room temperature. Check them regularly to make sure there is no damage around the stalk or to the skin. Pumpkins generally do not store as well as squashes. Once cut, squashes and pumpkin should be wrapped in cling film, stored in the fridge and used within a week. Freeze cooked or pureed squash in plastic bags or firm containers for 6-8 months.

Preparation

Squashes and pumpkins are amongst the most versatile of vegetables, and work well baked, roasted, stuffed, puréed or fried. Larger specimens can double as bowls for soups made with the scooped out flesh. Pair squashes and pumpkins with bright flavours such as tomatoes, basil, ginger, chilli and garlic. Squash tends to be firmer than watery pumpkin, so use the latter for making pies and jam.

Removing the tough skin of squashes and pumpkins is laborious but necessary work if you are using them in stir-fries, soups or stews. However, you can bake or roast large segments of pumpkins or squashes with the skin still on; it can be removed more easily after cooking.