Granny's Notes - the writing of Sue Gerard

New Zealand gourd feast recalls family ‘heritage pumpkin’ tradition

When I toured by bicycle, alone, in New Zealand, the young people in the Christchurch Youth Hostel treated me like a special person.

I was 30 years older than those in the youth hostel club were, but they insisted that I go along on their long weekend bus trip to Mount Cook. I was given a front seat on the bus Friday for great viewing of the beautiful mountain with its snowy top.

As we loaded, Elaine introduced herself and asked permission to sit beside me. Later she said, "I just can’t believe I’m sitting here talking with an American woman."

Being a bicycle tourist and staying at the youth hostel made age insignificant. Our bus collected food and supplies, and I was puzzled when they loaded three big, raw pumpkins.

On Sunday morning the fellows washed the pumpkins, cut them open and removed the seeds and stringy material that attaches to the edible part and develops a seed at the end of each string. Then they cut the pumpkins into pieces 2 or 3 inches square without removing the tough outer skin. They had brought along two big kettles for boiling all of that pumpkin. I was still puzzled; they didn’t prepare anything else for that meal.

They served steaming pumpkin - and almost nothing else - right out of the kettle for our Sunday night supper.

They spooned the edible part out and ate it "as is" from the shell. I added a little salt and butter to mine; they didn’t.

Surprise! It was sweet and delicious! This was the club’s Mount Cook tradition: boiled pumpkin for Sunday night. We returned to Christchurch after a big, late lunch on Monday, which was the Queen’s birthday.

When I was a kid, people saved seeds of choice pumpkins, melons, tomatoes, sweet corn and garden produce. They dried seeds from the best each year and saved them for planting the next summer. The best seeds from that year’s harvest got passed from generation to generation.

Now a few items are still raised from those best old seeds. I discovered "heritage pumpkins" for sale at our Friends Together Antique Shop. Pale-colored ones are best for canning; big tall ones are for jack-o-lanterns; and for $3 I bought a small squatting one, recommended for flavor.

As with some of the 300 other members of the squash, gourd and pumpkin family, the outer pumpkin skin is tough as whitleather.

My very old encyclopedia says only, "Pumpkins are raised for livestock food and pies." Mine was raised near Vienna for "heritage" eating.

To check the flavor, I boiled some and ate two large servings for lunch; the flesh was brilliant orange, mild-flavored and deliciously sweet. Remembering the young hostlers in New Zealand and the Indians who saved seeds of the best wild pumpkins, I cooked the remainder and put some in the freezer.

Here’s a recipe from my 100-year-old "White House Cook Book":


"One quart of properly stewed pumpkin, passed through a sieve; add good rich milk sufficient to fill two good-size earthenware pie plates, a teaspoon of salt, half a cupful of molasses, a tablespoon of ginger, a teaspoon of cinnamon or nutmeg. Bake in a moderately slow oven for three-quarters of an hour. A tablespoon of brandy is a great improvement to pumpkin or squash pie."

I chose this recipe because the other one called for cream and nine whole eggs.

Click here to return to the index

 Subscribe in your RSS reader

Copyright © 1994-2010 Sue Gerard. All Rights Reserved. No text or images on this website may be reproduced in any form without written permission of the author, except small quotations to be used in reviews.