British Columbia

Squashing the myth that pumpkins are just for lattes and pie

There’s more to pumpkins than just seasonal beverages, jack-o'-lanterns and holiday pies, according to chef Shelley Robinson.

Pumpkins work well in soup, stew, curry and 'squash nog,' according to chef Shelley Robinson

These seasonal squash can be used in baking, soups, stews and more, says chef Shelley Robinson. (Jenifer Norwell/CBC)

October in B.C., brings cooler temperatures, warm sweaters and, of course, locally grown pumpkins. 

But there's more to them than just seasonal beverages and holiday pies, according to Shelley Robinson, executive chef at the University of British Columbia's Okanagan campus.

But before you can start cooking and baking with festive gourds, there are a few things every aspiring culinary artist must know. 

First, all pumpkins are part of the squash family. And while all squash make for fun decorations during this time of year, not all are meant to be eaten; the orange pumpkins we carve jack-o'- lanterns from are filled with great seeds for roasting, but they aren't meant to be eaten.

"They've got really high water content, they don't have a lot of flavour there, their skin is really thin and very very different than an eating pumpkin," Robinson said during an interview with CBC's Daybreak South. 

Sugar pumpkins, on the other hand, are sweet and meant for eating, not carving.

Shelley Robinson is the executive chef at UBC's Okanagan campus. (Brady Strachan/CBC)

Squash you can eat are typically very firm and have a thick, dry skin. They're often oddly shaped, rather than perfectly round. Each variety takes on different flavours and textures, so do a bit of research, she said.

"Most [squash] can just be cut up tossing a little bit of oil put in the oven and roasted until they're soft," Robinson said. 

For other varieties, you may have to peel and poach the squash, or boil it in water until it's soft and then mash it. 

What to make

Robinson's family eats squash in pies, curries, smoothies (or squash 'nog' as she calls it), bread, soups and stews. 

Roasted kabocha squash can be added to a wide range of dishes, but chef Shelley Robinson recommends it for soup. (Julie Van Rosendaal/CBC)

One of her favourite soups is made using Kabocha, a Japanese variety of squash, by blending it with coconut milk, warm spices like nutmeg, allspice, cinnamon and curry and sauteed onions.

Pumpkin spice lattes are common among both large restaurant chains and local coffee shops. 

Robinson makes a squash 'nog', similar in consistency to egg nog, but using squash puree.

She adds almond milk — though she said any kind of milk will work — half a banana, a pinch each of cinnamon and allspice and one tablespoon of molasses into a blender with roasted squash to create a healthy fall beverage.

With files from Daybreak South

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