People are getting picky about their pumpkins, and that bin of dusty orange ones at the local market may not produce the perfect specimen to display on the porch or front steps. You've seen the white ones, the green ones, the tall ones, and squat ones, but what are their names and varieties?
- Skin: The outside, colored part of the pumpkin.
- Flesh: The stuff inside, used for cooking.
- Carvability: Is the pumpkin fairly easy to carve with a knife or pumpkin-carving kit? If not, it's probably more suited for painting or just leaving alone.
- Shape: Pumpkins aren't just round. They can be squat, tall, long, uneven, etc.
- Texture: Glide your fingers across the pumpkin's skin. Is it bumpy, slightly rough, or smooth as a baby's bottom? That's the pumpkin's texture.
- Ribbing: If you were drawing a pumpkin, the ribbing would be those vertical stripes you create to indicate that it is a pumpkin and not some other round object. Deep ribbing is noted.
- Size: Pretty straightforward—big, small, miniature, medium. Sometimes indicated in weight.
- Keeps well: Describes a pumpkin's "shelf life" or if it has a tendency to last a few months (uncarved) or quickly wither off the vine.
Here are some of the most popular types of pumpkins for cooking and displays.
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The Big Boys
Big, fat, monster-sized pumpkins are the stars of county fairs and international pumpkin harvest festivals, where they are trucked in and hoisted on scales. Like farm animals, the largest pumpkin is the winner of an event, usually earning an award, ribbon, cash prize, and notoriety. In some places, boats are carved out of the giant pumpkins and races are held. The world record for largest is over 2,300 pounds of orange, lumpy prize-winning pumpkin.
Jumbos also make eye-catching displays on porches and in public places. Huge pumpkins are not grown to be eaten or carved. Why? They often lack the flavor of their smaller cousins, and scooping out the pulp can be a chore.
Meet some of the heavyweights:
- Atlantic Giant
- Big Max: These can be pale to bright orange. Size: Can grow up to 300 pounds; slightly over 100 is more common.
- Big Moon
- Dill's Atlantic Giant. Size: Can grow to a whopping 990 pounds.
- Musquee de Provence. Ribbing: Large and deep
- Prizewinner. Size: Grows to an impressive 200 pounds or more. Shape: The most uniform in shape of the giants.
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Blue pumpkins contrast with their warmer orange and yellow siblings, giving them a ghostly appearance. The best of the blues include:
- Blue Lakota: An heirloom variety from the Midwest. A mix of blue and green. Ribbing: Slight. Shape: Oblate; top at step, comes to a point or cone-shape.
- Blue Max: See Jarrahdale, below. Color is pale blue.
- Kabocha: It's a squash masquerading as a green pumpkin and goes by the names Japanese Pumpkin, Ebisu, Delica, Hoka, Hokkaido Pumpkin. Popular in Japan; grown in other nations for export to Japan. Skin: Tough and green. Flesh: Yellow; stays firm and retains shape after cooking. Shape: Rounded, irregular. Edible: It has a firm texture and a sweet flavor, which makes it a great choice in the kitchen.
- Kakai: Produced in Japan. Skin: Grey with orange stripes or ribbing. Size: 5 to 8 pounds. Carvability: Good. Edible: Not a first choice for cooking, but Kakai is popular for its blue seeds, which can be roasted.
- Jarrahdale: This is an Australian heirloom pumpkin that was developed as a cross between the Cinderella and Blue Hubbard. Shape: Flattened but rounded like Cinderella. Skin: Light blue-grey. Ribbed: Deeply. Flesh: Golden yellow. Edible: Some pumpkin experts believe Jarrahdales are the finest pumpkins for making pumpkin pies. Its flavor is mildly sweet, with a texture that is creamy and dense. Display: Teamed with their red-orange sisters, the Cinderellas, they could potentially be the best-looking porch pumpkin display in town.
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Looking like the bright orange pumpkin that the fairy godmother turned into a carriage in Disney's animated classic, Cinderella, the aptly named pumpkins have been favorites to use as decor since the late 1800s. Red-orange varieties include:
- Cinderella (Rouge, Rouge Vif d'Estampes): Cinderella pumpkins have become increasingly popular in recent years because of their shape, bright color, and enchanting name. Shape: flattened, yet rounded. Ribbed: Deeply. Edible: Semi-sweet, moist, and good for pies. Display: Attention-getters because of their bright red-orange skin and whimsical shape. They look especially smart displayed stacked on top of one another, intermittently with faux or real fall leaves.
- Lakota: This is an heirloom variety that hails from the Midwest. Skin: Red with green and black markings that follow light ribbing (lines). Shape: Pear-shaped. Size: Weighs 5 to 7 pounds. Edible: Delicious butternut squash-like flavor.
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Pumpkins for a Good Cause
The first known pumpkin to be developed and grown for a good cause: breast cancer awareness. A percentage of proceeds from the sale of pumpkins and seeds benefits the Pink Pumpkin Patch Foundation. The nonprofit was created in 2012 as part of October's Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Proceeds will be given to organizations involved in breast cancer research.
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- Porcelain Doll Pink Pumpkin: Shape: Squarish. Ribs: Deeply ribbed. Flesh: Deep orange. Edible: Contains a sweet flesh that is great for pies, soups, and gourmet pumpkin recipes.
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So-called because they resemble big wheels of cheese, these pale yellow-orange pumpkins come in a variety of sizes and are striking displayed at different levels on the porch or front steps by themselves or with bright orange pumpkins and flower pots filled with fall bloomers like chrysanthemums and calendulas. Among the best cheeses:
- Long Island Cheese: A classic pumpkin of the 19th century. Skin: Pale cheese colored. Ribbing: Light. Flesh: Deep orange. Shape: Medium; averages 10 pounds. Keeps well. Edible: Sweet Varieties include 'Long Island Cheese' 'Shakertown Field.'
- Musee de Provence: This beauty is often sold in slices in French markets. Skin: Pale orange-yellow. Ribbing: Deep and distinct. Flesh: Yellow-orange. Shape: Medium to large. Edible: Rich, sweet, creamy, and dense.
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Ghostly White Pumpkins
White pumpkins are attractive in fall porch displays and break up a sea or otherwise-orange specimens. White pumpkins include:
- Baby Boo: These palm-sized minis are best in numbers―the more the merrier. Skin: Bright white; tends to turn yellow if exposed to direct sunlight. Size: Miniature. Ribbing: Deep. Edible: No. Carvability: Too small.
- Lumina. Skin: Brilliant white. Texture: Smooth. Flesh: Bright yellow. Edible: Valued for its flavor; good for baking. Carvability: It can be carved or painted; however, it doesn't last long.
- Casper. Skin: Bright white. Shape: More round than squat with only slight ribbing. Edible: Good for pies and baking. Carvability: Better to leave alone or paint than carve.
- White Ghost (Also known as Valencia). Skin: Pure white. Flesh: Bright yellow and thick. Shape: Squat. Edible: Tasty. Carvability: Challenging.
- White Pie. Skin: Ivory and somewhat smooth like its orange counterpart. Shape: Small and oval. Edible: Sweet, with a buttery texture. One pumpkin is enough for a whole pie. Carvability: Average.
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The greens may resemble squash, but they are true pumpkins. Check out:
- Fairytale: An old French heirloom variety. Skin: Dark green with orange/peach blush when young. As it ages, the dark green turns to buff orange. Flesh: Surprisingly, inside it is bright orange. Shape: With its flatness and deep ribbing, Fairytale bears a striking resemblance to the Cinderella pumpkin. Size: About 15 inches diameter; 6 inches high and 20 to 30 pounds. Carvability: Not good. Edible: Fairytale's sweet, creamy meat makes this variety a good choice for cooking or baking pumpkin pies.
- Green Striped Cushaw. Edible: Excellent, old-fashioned favorite for pies.
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Even if your decorating space is limited, you can find room somewhere to display a mini or more. Favorites include:
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- Baby Boo: See above, Ghostly Whites.
- Jack-be-Little. Skin: Orange miniatures.
- Munchkin. Skin: Orange.
- Sweetie Pie. Skin: Medium orange; scalloped.
- Tiger. Skin: Yellow with orange mottling. Ribs: Deep at the top, then fading at the bottom. Shape: Flat with a recessed stem. Size: About 5 inches diameter; 3 inches high.
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Warty or Pimpled Pumpkins
Most of these are hybrids or heirlooms, cultivated for their witch and goblin-like appearances. Textured pumpkins include:
- Galeux d’Eysines. Skin: Salmon pink with warts that look like peanut shells. Edible: Good for soups; scent reminiscent of sweet potatoes and apples.
- Marina Di Chioggia; A green heirloom Italian variety. Skin: Thick and warty Shape: Squat. Size: 6 to 12 pounds. Flesh: Yellow/orange. Edible: Nice, sweet flavor makes it a favorite for cooking.
- Warty Goblin. Skin: Bright orange. Shape: Oval. Carvability: A hardshell, meaning it is difficult to cut.
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When you think about pumpkins, the color orange comes to mind. There are hundreds of varieties and hybrids of traditional orange pumpkins in assorted shapes and sizes. Among them:
- Autumn Gold. Skin: Yellowish-orange. Additional names include:
- Big Autumn
- Connecticut Field Pumpkins
- Harvest Moon
- Jumpin' Jack
- Sugar or Pie Pumpkins
These are small, modest-looking orange pumpkins with smooth skins, they can be carved or painted, but probably look better in a pile on the porch or front steps. The true value of these pumpkins is that their buttery meat makes the best pies, cookies, and baked treats.
- Winter Luxury. Skin: Netted; unusual; pale orange. Edible: With rich, creamy flesh, this variety is a longtime favorite for baking.
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Turbans resemble pumpkins but are technically squash. These hat- or turban-shaped squash are often bright orange with veins of green and white and are a variety that Native Americans grow. Shape: Looks like a cap or turban. Flesh: Stringy and pale yellow. Edible: Turbans have an excellent flavor that makes them ideal for baking, roasting, in soups, and as a steamed vegetable. Some parts of the flowers are also edible.