When you purchase a pumpkin, you might feel as if you are embarking on a long-term relationship. It’s such a large, heavy object, cumbersome to carry and rather garrish. When you carry one in the supermarket, eyes turn to look at you as if you are somehow suspect for requiring such a unwieldy vegetable. It can be much better to buy pumpkin in smaller quantities, but we like to cook in bulk.
Of course, if you live on your own, buying an entire pumpkin to cook up may seem untenable. If you live in a place with a supermarket or know your vegetable seller, they might cut a piece off for you. After all, most fruits and vegetables are sold by weight.
Squashes like acorn and butternut are great substitutes for pumpkin in recipes. They are smaller and easier to buy, and their thinner skin makes them safer to cut.
Pumpkins and squash require no care at all but do keep them a cool, dry place free from other creatures’ interference. When you’re ready to eat it, be prepared to careful wield the largest, sharpest knife you can find and have someone hold down and secure the pumpkin while you slice it. Don’t try this alone: if the pumpkin slips while you’re slicing (and they do), you’ll easily cut yourself and blood will be everywhere. We don’t want that. Carefully halve and quarter your pumpkin, wrapping up what you don’t need in plastic and putting it in the fridge where it will keep nicely for some time.
Pumpkin and squash skin seems to mystify and discourage a great many people warding them off like warts from this most excellent vegetable. The skin, as many nutritionists have realized, is where the good stuff is. Most pumpkin skins will soften naturally with cooking to become pliable enough to cut with a fork, like baked apple skin. Even if you have a really warty pumpkin that you’re set on removing from its skin, do so after cooking, when it’s far, far easier to do so.
Cooking pumpkin and squash transforms them into both savory and sweet ingredients. In African cooking, they are both, although the emphasis is on savory. We share both the traditional and our own creative pumpkin recipes with you and encourage you to enjoy more of this African vegetable.