The pumpkin: regional, excellent quality, authentically Styrian. The Styrian oil pumpkin has become a culinary icon. It is described as the “green gold” of Styria.
As you will no doubt have noticed, the true treasure of the Styrians is to be unearthed on their pumpkin patches. Pumpkins are grown across 12,000 hectares, and are used to produce the deep green oil that is the undisputed champion of Styrian salads. Styria’s “green gold” has not just made a name for itself domestically; it has also long been a highly sought-after export, revered by connoisseurs all over the world.
And the source product – the plump Styrian oil pumpkin – is considered a special variety of edible pumpkin thanks to its hull-less seeds, which are very easy to press. The result is the “green gold” of Styria – delectable pumpkin seed oil.
What we know today as the edible pumpkin originates from Central and South America. Pumpkins have been a staple of the indigenous diet for 10,000 years. It was cultivated there alongside maize and beans. Maize acted as a frame for the climbing beans, while the pumpkins shaded the earth with their foliage, preventing water from evaporating. It is said that Christopher Columbus brought the pumpkin home to Europe after his voyage to the Americas. Since the 16th century, the pumpkin has been a popular fruit in Europe and Asia.
It began to be used in Styria in the 18th century. By the first half of the 19th century, pumpkins were being grown in large quantities in Styria, usually together with maize, as pig food, and to extract the seed oil. It was only towards the end of the 20th century that the pumpkin found a place in haute cuisine and fine dining, being high in vitamins and low in calories. Oil pumpkin can be used for rustling up dishes in the summer, provided that it’s still green and tender. The flesh itself isn’t particularly flavourful, but tastes wonderful if seasoned properly. Some pumpkin varieties store very well, so there’s nothing to stop you enjoying pumpkin virtually all year through.
True Styrian pumpkin seed oil is absolutely the star, but the pumpkin itself has plenty more to offer as well as the potential for some ingenious creations. Whether in a soup, roasted, grilled or stuffed, in pastries, jams or chutneys, in schnapps or liqueurs, even in crispbreads, soap and paper... There’s no end to the inventive ways that people use it.
Styrian seed oil producers always press seed oil as and when required, because it tastes best when fresh. The dry seeds are ground in oil mills, kneaded with water and salt, then gently roasted. The combination of Styrian pumpkin seeds and a traditional manufacturing process that does not use any chemical additives guarantees a first-rate natural product that is utterly unmistakeable.
For one litre of pumpkin seed oil, you need about 2.5 to 3 kg pumpkin seeds (roughly 30 to 40 pumpkins). Pumpkin seed harvests: 60 % of the harvested seeds go into making pumpkin seed oil and 40 % to making roasted seeds. Market share of Styrian oil in Austria: 66 per cent. Export share: Around 40 per cent of total production, and growing. Target markets: Germany, Switzerland, France, Benelux countries, as well as Japan, South Korea and the USA. Members of the Association of Styrian Pumpkin Seed Oil Producers: around 2,800 companies. Seed oil producers in the Association of Styrian Pumpkin Seed Oil Producers: around 1,150. Oil mills in Styria: around 60, around half of which are members of the Association of Styrian Pumpkin Seed Oil Producers (Source: Styria Chamber of Agriculture).
Which varieties of pumpkin and squash are we familiar with?
The muscat pumpkin tastes best before it’s fully ripe. You can tell by the peel: an unripe pumpkin is dark green, and goes beige or orange over time.
The tasty orange flesh of the butternut squash is rich in carotene and has a sweet, creamy flavour that becomes more intense in storage.
Patty pan squash
The patty pan is nicknamed the “flying saucer” due to its shape. This variety of garden squash can be harvested while young and eaten with the peel on.
Lunga di Napoli
The Lunga di Napoli, or winter squash, is an excellent long pumpkin with few seeds, firm, orange flesh, and a subtly nutty flavour. It is versatile and can be used for soups, savouries, and desserts.
The Hokkaido pumpkin is a wonderful orange hue, and has a delicious, nutty flesh. Unlike many other types of pumpkin, the Hokkaido pumpkin doesn’t have to be peeled when preparing dishes.
This squash gets its name from its spaghetti-like flesh, produced during cooking. For this reason people tend to cook the fruit as a whole or in halves. Scoop out the flesh with a spoon and serve with a sauce, like pasta.
The acorn squash is an old variety, hailing from North Dakota. It was typically grown by the Arikara tribe of Native Americans. This long, oval, ribbed fruit is sweet, and its yellowy-orange flesh is quite dry.
Decorative gourds are not suitable for consumption because of the toxic bittering agent they contain, cucurbitacin. However, they are very decorative especially in autumn, and sometimes keep for years!