Canned Pumpkin: What Is It Really Made Of?

A lot of professional and home chefs swear by canned pumpkin for its convenience and consistent flavor and texture. But we recently learned something rather surprising about this pantry item...

It turns out that some canned pumpkin is actually – gasp! – squash. Some manufacturers make "pumpkin" puree from one or more kinds of winter squashes such as butternut, Hubbard, and Boston Marrow, which can be less stringy and richer in sweetness and color.

But before we start crying fraud, it is interesting to note the rather fuzzy distinction between pumpkins and squashes. There are three varieties of winter squashes: Cucurbita pepo, Cucurbita maxima, and Curcubita moschata. C. pepo includes the gourds we traditionally think of as pumpkins, such as the kind used for jack-o'-lanterns. Hubbard and Boston Marrow squashes fall into the C. maxima category, while C. moschata includes butternut squashes as well as the Dickinson pumpkins used by Libby's, the producer of most of the canned pumpkin in North America.

What do you think? Does it matter whether canned pumpkin is "pumpkin" or another type of squash? Or if you skip the cans altogether and make your pumpkin puree from scratch, what variety of gourd do you use?

How To: Make Pumpkin Puree
Midwest Food Roundup: The Great Pumpkin (Debate)

(Image: Flickr member liebep licensed under Creative Commons)