When ripe, pumpkins will have taken on their ripe colour (which varies with the variety you have grown) and the stem which connects the fruit to the plant will have dried and become wrinkly and woody. Use secateurs to cut the ripe pumpkins from the vine, leaving a little section of stem attached to the fruit. If the stem comes away from the pumpkin, use that one up soon as it will not keep.
Hard-skinned pumpkin varieties such as ‘Queensland Blue’ and ‘Jarrahdale’ store better and longer than soft-skinned varieties such as ‘Jap’ or ‘Butternut’. Before storing, first ‘cure’ the pumpkins by placing them in a warm, dry, sunny spot for at least two weeks, to harden the skin. Then store the pumpkins in a cool, airy, dry spot. Big tip: store pumpkins on their sides, so that moisture cannot collect overnight in the centre of the pumpkin, and set off rot around the stem end.
Tracy Rutherford’s roast pumpkin pasta salad
Serves 8-10 as a side dish
1.5kg Butternut pumpkin
olive oil spray
1/3 cup pine nuts
500g farfalle (bow-tie) pasta
large pinch saffron threads
8 slices prosciutto
1 bunch basil
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1. Preheat the oven to 190°C. Line an oven tray with non-stick baking paper. Peel and deseed the pumpkin, and cut into roughly 3-4cm cubes. Place onto the tray and spray with oil. Bake for 45 minutes, until tender and golden brown. Spread the pine nuts onto the oven tray and bake for just 3-4 minutes, until golden. Cool.
2. Bring a large pan of water to the boil, and add salt and a good pinch of saffron threads. Cook the pasta according to packet directions. Drain and rinse under cold running water, then drain well.
3. Cook the prosciutto, a few pieces at a time, in a lightly oiled frying pan, until crisp. Set aside to cool, then break into pieces.
4. Pick the basil leaves and tear them into pieces. Combine the oil, vinegar and mustard in a small screwtop jar, and shake to combine.
5. Combine the pasta and pumpkin in a large bowl. Drizzle with the dressing, and season generously with freshly ground black pepper. Toss to combine, then add the remaining ingredients and toss again. Serve immediately.
Pumpkin salad with feta
Bake any favourite pumpkin and prepare pine nuts as Tracy describes in the recipe above, but then toss them together with mixed salad greens (including baby spinach and rocket) and 100g of crumbled feta cheese. For a dressing, mix 60ml olive oil with 2 tablespoons of red wine vinegar, plus salt and pepper to taste, and toss this into the salad.