SO what’s the scoop on pumpkins this autumn? Well in addition to making the perfect shell for a Jack-O-Lantern for Halloween, these goodness-packed gourds can also be used to make delicious soups, milkshakes and pies, butter and breads not to mention being mashed, steamed roasted, baked and pureed and even used to perk up a hot chocolate.

The often overlooked bountiful meat (pulp) of the pumpkin can certainly spice up mealtimes and there are more than 40 different varieties of pumpkin to choose from. They range in colour from red, yellow, grey and green and many have exotic names such as ‘Fairytale’, ‘Cinderella’ and the ‘Crown Prince’.

Guy and Emily French are veritable pumpkin experts. The married couple are running their own pumpkin patches again this year at their Foxes Farm production sites in Wash Road, Basildon and in Green Lane, Aldham, Colchester, following on from a bountiful first year of business last year.

It seems already, people are going pumpkin potty at both sites and the harvest this year looks pretty good- thanks to the not so great summer we’ve had.

“It’s been so busy, incredibly busy, even more so than this time last year with people coming to both patches,” said a spokesman for the farm.

“We have more than 10 varieties of pumpkins at our patches including the gold medal monster pumpkins- the huge ones that people seems to go mad for! They are selling out fast though."

But there are plenty of other varieties available at both patches including the ‘Snowman’, ‘Acorn’, ‘Harvest Festival’ and ‘Turk’s Turban’.Both pumpkin patches are now open from 10am-4pm every weekend until October 29. During the October half term the patches will be open every day to welcome in families for some fun pumpkin picking.

Both sites offer refreshments, including a range of drinks including hot chocolate as well as hay bale mountains for youngsters to play on. (The Basildon patch also offers BBQ food but there’s no maze at either patch this year and no dogs are allowed at all).

As well as being synonymous with Halloween, pumpkins are also a healthy addition to the dinner plate. Low in calories, fat and salt and high in fibre, they are also good sources of Vitamin A, Vitamin B, potassium, protein and iron. So instead of just hollowing out your autumnal squash and binning the flesh inside, why not make full use of the leftovers and whisk up a pumpkin soup, pumpkin beef chilli, pumpkin meringue pie or even a pumpkin latte?

Emily advises using any medium sized orange pumpkin for Halloween fun but when it comes to eating the gourd, there are specific types to choose from.

“For cooking I’d suggest our Onion Red variety which is great for curries and soups and the

Crown Prince which is more of a grey colour,” she says.

Pumpkin to try in the kitchen…


Creamy pumpkin soup


• 2 tablespoons olive oil

• 1 onion, finely chopped

• 1 leek, white part only, finely sliced

• 1 garlic clove, crushed

• 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander

• 1 teaspoon ground cumin

• 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

• 1kg peeled pumpkin, diced

• 1 large potato, peeled, diced

• 1L Massel chicken style liquid stock or vegetable liquid stock

• 1/2 cup (125ml) thin cream

• Heat oil in a large saucepan over low heat, add onion and leek and cook for 2-3 minutes, until softened but not coloured. Add garlic and spices and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds. Add pumpkin, potato and stock and bring to the boil. Turn heat to low, cover and simmer for 30 minutes. Allow to cool slightly, then blend in batches.

• Step 2

Return soup to pan, stir through cream and reheat gently. Season and add a little more nutmeg if desired.

Chefs at the

the hotness or piquancy of chilli peppers.