Pumpkin: an appealing seasonal menu addition

September 03 2013

One of the best ways for food service operators to keep their menus fresh and appealing to customers is by regularly adding seasonally-specific items, coinciding with public holidays, special occasions and harvest patterns.

As summer turns to fall, many chefs will be considering the possibilities of pumpkin-based dishes and desserts, which are always a big hit among North American consumers over the Halloween and Thanksgiving periods.

The business benefits of doing so were recently highlighted by consultancy firm Technomic, with a consumer poll conducted last year revealing that 58 per cent of diners believe the use of seasonal ingredients helps to make an item seem more fresh.

Moreover, 51 per cent of fast-casual patrons said they would be more likely to purchase an item that has been specifically marketed as a seasonal menu addition.

For many restaurants, the change of season can be the ideal time to try out a new ingredient or recipe in a relatively risk-free way, as items that meet with a positive reception can be retained long-term, while those that do not can simply be phased out without any need to explain.

Pumpkin-based dishes lend themselves particularly well to experimentation, due to the versatility this tasty squash can provide.

For US and Canadian diners, pumpkin pie is the most familiar and traditional use of the ingredient, given its status as a symbol of the harvest season.

This sweet and delicious dessert is brought to life with a range of spices, including nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves and ginger, which can be added to the filling in order to give it its unique flavour.

However, the potential uses of pumpkins extend far beyond the traditional pies, as the ingredient is utilized in a wide variety of appetizers, main courses, snacks and desserts.

For example, pumpkin-based soups and stews can be hearty and filling additions to a menu when combined with herbs such as rosemary - and can even be served alongside pumpkin seed bread for an ideal accompaniment.

Pumpkins can also be used alongside various meats and pasta for a main course, or baked into cakes, muffins and tarts for a sweet treat.