“Each year, the Great Pumpkin rises out of the pumpkin patch that he thinks is the most sincere. He’s gotta pick this one. He’s got to. I don’t see how a pumpkin patch can be more sincere than this one. You can look around and there’s not a sign of hypocrisy. Nothing but sincerity as far as the eye can see.”
Linus Van Pelt, Peanuts
It would be a stretch to call pumpkins sexy. They don’t stand a chance against others in the fruit lineup. Avocados are sexy; mangoes are sexy; pumpkins aren’t.
But what they lack in sex appeal they make up for in honesty and personality. Eminently jolly, the pumpkin is the always-smooching, always-hugging, always-cheek-squeezing great aunt of the fruit clan. Equally comfortable as Cinderella’s carriage or Jack-o-Lantern’s head, this marvelously rotund pepo is easy-going and versatile – on the farm and in the kitchen.
Thought to be native to North America and brought back to Europe by Columbus (to feed pigs), pumpkins are grown on every continent in the world except Antarctica – yet more proof that penguins make bad farmers. Across the remaining fragments of Pangaea we find these members of the Cucurbitaceae family celebrated for their beauty, easy-to-growability and nutritional wealth. One cup of pureed pumpkin contains 700% of Vitamin A daily value recommended for a 2000 calorie diet, while good fibre (7g per cup), high mineral content and a full range of antixodants make it an immune-boosting, free radical-fighting, cardio-vascular health-promoting food source.
In South Africa the proud pumpkin lineage finds expression in the local ‘wit boer pampoen’ – a long-storing white variety with excellent flesh, texture and flavour. This is the pumpkin we grew up with. Its history is uncertain, though it almost certainly started with a night of heavy drinking between Christopher Columbus and Bartholomew Diaz, and ended with a young boer in a hat. What we do know about the traditional heritage boer pumpkin is that its existence is being threatened by the F1 hybrid variety that was released in 2009/2010. This is one of the reasons that local farm, Ambersky, only grows white pumpkins from non-GMO seed. It may not be a fashionable variety, but in a large round white-on-the-outside-yellow-on-the-inside kind of way, it’s a part of who we are.
The white boer pumpkin is local and extremely lekker, delicious in a variety of ways during the autumn and winter months. For an old pumpkin recipe handed down from generation to generation in Thandi’s family, see Ninni’s pampoenkoekies.
For some pumpkin-related South Afrikana starring puppets and an alarmingly large dog, see below: