11 years and 20,000 plants later: Farmer Shaun Jackson has his new thin-skinned pumpkin

A designer pumpkin, the first new variety to hit the Australian market in 20 years, promises to end an eternal kitchen struggle: cutting the notoriously impenetrable vegetable.

Key points:

  • It has taken 11 years and thousands of cross-bred plants to perfect the variety
  • The pumpkin’s creator, Shaun Jackson, says its skin is thin and translucent
  • Being drier, the vegetable is also good for making chips

The Orange Glow variety was naturally bred by a Far North Queensland farmer hell-bent on acquiring attributes such as high beta carotene content, a vivid colour, fewer seeds and perhaps most importantly, thin skin.

Creator and Lakeland grower Shaun Jackson said he wanted the vegetable to be user-friendly.

Shaun Jackson standing in front of a grey background holding the pumpkin variety he cultivated.

Daintree Fresh director Shaun Jackson has bred the Orange Glow variety at his farm in Lakeland in Far North Queensland.(ABC Rural: Renee Cluff)

“It’s really easy to cut. It has almost no skin, it’s got a clear skin on it,” Mr Jackson said.

The director of Daintree Fresh took 11 years to perfect the variety, using his previous knowledge and experience as a seed company agronomist.

He said it was a process of trial and error which eventually came to fruition when he found one single appropriate pumpkin in a field of thousands.

“You have a whole lot of crosses after 11 years and I managed to find this variety, one plant amongst nearly 20,000 plants,” Mr Jackson said.

“What I was looking for was intense colour and we got this amazing vivid orange.

“It’s variegated and it’s got an orange stem and it was very obvious. So I plucked it out and we developed the variety from there.”

New chip on the block

The Orange Glow has been marketed as being not only user-friendly but more nutritious and versatile than traditional pumpkins.

Mr Jackson said it could be eaten raw, roasted, pickled, blended into smoothies and even turned into chips.

He said the pumpkin contained four times more beta carotene than any other variety, and a third of a cup provided more than enough provitamin A for an adult’s daily needs.

“High orange colour means high beta carotene,” Mr Jackson said.

“I’ve done a lot of work with the National Measurement Institute and we’ve had tests done officially. We’ve got some really amazing results with provitamin A and beta carotene, which are considerably higher than in standard pumpkins and even in carrots.

A group of five halves of bright orange pumpkins on the ground, with some vegetable leaves visible.

The pumpkins are a cross between an Andean variety and Australian varieties.(Supplied: Orange Glow)

Focus on restaurants

Mr Jackson is now collaborating with other contracted growers to provide a year-round supply.

He said since the product was placed on the market this year, the uptake had been slow, but he had decided to focus less on the wholesale market and more on the restaurant trade.

“It’s always a slow grow, to be honest what I’ve learned is a great degree of patience,” he said.

“People are going and eating it in the restaurant and going, ‘Can I have it? Where can I buy it?’ and because they’re asking, the shops start to take it on.”

Lohit Soundarajan

Founder , Editor Tech Guy #Voxguy

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