Know Your Pumpkins: A Guide to the Best Types

  • 01 of 12

    Decorating for Fall: Not All Pumpkins Look Alike

    mixed pumpkins
    Lisa Hallett Taylor

    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? While hundreds of pumpkin varieties exist, we introduce you to some of the more noteworthy, along with their physical attributes.

    Pumpkin Terms

    • Skin: The outside, colored part of the pumpkin.
    • Flesh: The...MORE 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.

    Not all of these characteristics are featured for each of the following pumpkins profiled.

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  • 02 of 12

    The Big Boys

    giant pumpkins in field
    China Photos/Getty Images

    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...MORE 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.

    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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  • 03 of 12

    The Blues

    blue pumpkins
    Flickr member Catherine

    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 actually a squash masquerading as a green pumpkin and goes by the names Japanese Pumpkin, Ebisu, Delica, Hoka, Hokkiado 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,...MORE 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

    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-gray
    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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  • 04 of 12

    Red-Orange Pumpkins

    red orange cinderella pumpkins
    Lisa Hallett Taylor

    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 actually been favorites to use as decor since the late 1800s.

    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: Attentio...MOREn-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

    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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  • 05 of 12

    Pumpkins for a Good Cause

    pink pumpkins
    Susan Colby/EyeEm/Getty Images

    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.

    Porcelain Doll Pink Pumpkin

    Shape: Squarish
    Ribs: Deeply ribbed
    Flesh: Deep orange
    Edible: Contains a sweet flesh that is great for pies,...MORE soups, and gourmet pumpkin recipes.

     

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  • 06 of 12

    Cheese Pumpkins

    cheese pumpkins
    Lisa Hallett Taylor

    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.

    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...MORE 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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  • 07 of 12

    Ghostly White Pumpkins

    white pumpkins
    Lisa Hallett Taylor

    Baby Boo

    No relation to the star of the ill-fated TLC series, Here Comes Honey Boo Boo.
    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...MORE 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: Good
    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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  • 08 of 12

    The Greens

    green pumpkins
    Flickr members Carly and Art

    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: 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:...MORE Excellent, old-fashioned favorite for pies.

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  • 09 of 12

    Miniatures

    miniature pumpkins
    Lisa Hallett Taylor

    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 recessed stem
    Size: About 5 inches diameter; 3 inches high

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  • 10 of 12

    Warty or Pimpled Pumpkins

    pimpled pumpkins
    Lisa Hallett Taylor

    Most of these are hybrids or heirlooms, cultivated for their witch and goblin-like appearances.

    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,...MORE meaning it is difficult to cut.

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  • 11 of 12

    Classic Oranges

    classic pumpkins
    Flickr member

    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.

    Autumn Gold

    Skin: Yellowish-orange

    Big Autumn

    Connecticut Field Pumpkins

    Harvest Moon

    Jack-o'-Lantern

    Jumpin' Jack

    Sugar or Pie Pumpkins

    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 on front steps. The true value of these pumpkins is that...MORE 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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  • 12 of 12

    Turbans

    turban squash
    Sean Duan/Getty Images

    They look like 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.