View from the train, as we travelled through the mountains.
Last summer, I was fortunate enough to have a work meeting in the pretty Austrian town of Graz. I've only been to Austria to ski, previously, so seeing the mountains lush and green instead of covered in snow was a bit of a revelation.
I also had no idea that pumpkin oil was such a big thing in this region. Like, really big. A meal would not be complete without a fresh salad incorporating a pumpkin oil dressing.
Other things I did not know: pumpkin oil is dark green when you see it in a bowl, but looks red when you pour it in front of the sun. It's also delicious.
Our hosts arranged for us to have a tour of a local pumpkin oil mill, where the oil is pressed and sold. This is a family business going back several generations, and although the machinery has been updated a couple of times, it's still a very interactive process with several steps done by hand. I thought you might enjoy a bit of a virtual tour from the resulting photos.
Although it's no longer used, some of the original old machinery is kept in the museum part of the mill.
Sacks of pumpkin seeds waiting to be processed. Apparently, one litre of pumpkin oil requires about 30 pumpkins, or 2.5kg of seeds [source]
Pumpkin seeds are boiled up with water to break down the husks.
Boiling mash is decanted into a vat, ready to be transferred to the press.
The main pumpkin oil press has two symmetrical halves, each of which contains a series of metal plates to crush the oil from the pumpkin seeds.
The back of the oil press, where the oil drains into a barrel ready to be bottled.
Pressed disks of discarded pumpkin husks, after the oil has been extracted.
Tools coated in striking green pumpkin oil.
The run-off channels.
The end product in action: a typical Styrian salad tossed with pumpkin oil.
If you love to peek behind the scenes as much as I do, you might enjoy these other factory tours:
- A small syrup waffle factory in Gouda
- The Thorntons chocolate factory in Derbyshire
- Mackays jam factory in Scotland