Flamboyant pumpkins and winter squash come in numerous shapes and sizes, from the cute to the spectacular. Our weather in the UK – lacking reliable late season sunshine – limits how many varieties will successfully grow outdoors, so spare a thought for the famers who now produce acres of the hardiest types for Halloween. Come 1st November, though, the poor pumpkin is history. Getting this tricky crop swollen to bursting and ripened to blemish-free, tango-orange for just one day in the year is a herculean task and, unlike the rest of Europe who are happy to eat them, our pumpkins are mostly destined for chopping spooky faces into. Cheap, nutritious and almost endlessly versatile, there are plenty of ways of transforming winter squash into savoury dishes and dips and sweet tarts and puddings, prolonging its usefulness and supporting UK farmers in the process. Beyond the kitchen and the face carving, it also brightens up a dull corner of the garden no end on a wet autumn day, along with a few branches of berries. Like a puppy is not just for Christmas, a pumpkin is not just for Halloween.
Nigel Slater, in Tender Volume I, tops steamed pumpkin with a tumble of garlicky breadcrumbs shot through with orange zest, rosemary and chilli, then oven bakes the lot until the pumpkin is unctuously soft and the crumbs crisp, gold and fragrant.