Behind the mask at Lancashire’s first pumpkin festival

Kay Johnson at Pumpkin Fest
Kay Johnson at Pumpkin Fest
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Pumpkins are for eating and not just Halloween.

That was the haunting message at a food festival with a difference on Preston Market.

Volunteers behind the city’s first Pumpkin Fest set out to show shoppers the delicious and nutritious dishes which can be produced from a fruit which seldom makes the dinner table in Britain.

“Here we tend to think it is just for carving into a ghastly face on Halloween,” said organiser Kay Johnson, who is the director of Larder (Lancashire and Region Dietary Education Resource).

“Pumpkin pie is very popular in the United States. But here it seems most pumkins are just grown to make lanterns on October 31.”

The idea of a Pumpkin Fest came after Kay heard of a farmer left with pumpkins in the field after Halloween which would have gone to waste.

“We went and collected 120 of them and decided to set up something in the city centre to show people just what a great food source they are,” added Kay.

“It was a huge success. We had volunteers cooking things like soup and pumpkin pies. They were abolutely delicious and so easy to make.

“Lots of people came up to us and said they had never thought of pumpkin for cooking and had no idea you could eat it. So we handed out samples and recipes and they loved them. We could have made double the amount.

“People buy pumpkins to carve into lanterns. The Americans also do that at Halloween, but they also use them for food. That side of it hasn’t caught on here yet, but we intend to do our bit to change that.”

Lancashire’s first Pumpkin Fest was so successful that Kay and her band of volunteers are planning to launch it as an annual event.

Saturday’s festival followed on from a Disco Soup event in Avenham Park in August where more than 300 people enjoyed meals cooked from food which would otherwise have been thrown away.