AUSTRALIANS can add a fresh flavour to their favourite pumpkin soup or roast dinner recipe after a new pumpkin variety was launched at Coles thanks to two innovative North Queensland farmers.
Des and Paula Chapman from Rocky Ponds, Gumlu, near Bowen, are growing the new Kabocha pumpkin, which offers a sweeter and nuttier twist on the winter food staple, following a successful two-year trial period by the family business.
Rocky Ponds managing director Des Chapman said he was thrilled to see the big, bright orange pumpkins on Coles’ shelves after enjoying the vegetable for two-years with his family in Gumlu.
“We discovered the Kabocha pumpkin when we were travelling in Europe a few years ago,” he said.
“We snapped off a piece and ate it raw. It was delicious – just on its own.
“We decided there and then that we’d source the seeds and bring them to Australia.
“Now two years later, we’re so excited to share this delicious variety with Coles’ customers.
“We’re always looking for new and different produce to grow at our farm.
“We have about 500 trials a year, and we won’t settle unless we’re confident in the taste and quality after extensive tests.
“We’ve tried cooking Kabocha in every way you can imagine, and every time we tried it, everybody loved its unique, sweet and nutty taste.
“We’re so grateful for Coles’ support along the way and taking the chance on our Kabocha pumpkins.
We discovered the Kabocha pumpkin when we were travelling in Europe a few years ago. We snapped off a piece and ate it raw. It was delicious – just on its own.
“If customers prove to enjoy the variety as much as we do, we have plans to partner with more Queensland farmers to grow Kabocha all year round.”
Coles general manager of fresh produce Brad Gorman said Coles sells more than 10 million kilograms of pumpkins each year, making them one of the most popular vegetables on their shelves.
“We know our customers love the traditional pumpkin varieties so we’re pleased to support Rocky Ponds to bring customers an exciting new type of pumpkin to try in their meals,” he said.
Des and Paula Chapman started their business, Rocky Ponds, 38 years ago and have been supplying to Coles for more than 15 years with fresh fruit and vegetables including rockmelons, honeydew melons and capsicums.
Last year, Rocky Ponds received a $400,000 grant from the Coles Nurture Fund to build a state-of-the-art nursery with fully computerised irrigation and fertigation systems to boost productivity by up to 20 per cent and create 15 new jobs. The technology will mean the farm can be controlled from anywhere in the world.
“Des and Paula are always looking at innovative ways to make their family business at Gumlu grow, so it’s been fantastic working with them to help them expand their business and bring something different to our customers,” Mr Gorman said.
With its distinctive, sweet and nutty flavour, and fluffy chestnut texture, Kabocha pumpkins can be served roasted, steamed, mashed, stewed or even used in desserts.
Rocky Ponds will employ more than 100 staff at peak season this year and the construction of a new nursery is estimated to create an additional 15 jobs.
Mr and Mrs Chapman are first-generation farmers, and recent expansion has allowed their sons Evan and Shaun to join the family business.
- This story first appeared in the Queensland Country Life.