10 Great Pumpkins for Decorating and Cooking
The official fruit of fall, pumpkins start to pop up in patches and grocery store displays shortly after pumpkin spice season kicks off. A member of the Cucurbita genus, which includes other winter squash and summer squash as well as cucumbers and melons, there are more than 100 varieties of pumpkins in just about every shape and size and a wide range of autumnal hues. The best news? Most of them are as delicious as they are pretty. Read on to learn all about pumpkins and check out 10 of our favorite varieties.
When Is Pumpkin Season?
Before we jump in, let’s talk briefly about when you’ll be able to find this fabulous fruit. Pumpkin season starts in the early fall and goes through November. Look for these multi-colored beauties at the farmers market, roadside stands, pumpkin patches, and grocery stores.
How Should You Store Pumpkins?
When you bring your pumpkins home, give them a little TLC. Wash them in a sink full of water with a bit of dish detergent, and then dry them thoroughly. Wipe the pumpkins down with a weak bleach solution (2 tablespoons bleach to 1 gallon water), which will prevent the pumpkin from rotting.
Store pumpkins away from sunlight in a dry, cool (between 50°F and 60°F) location in a wooden crate or on a piece of cardboard, which will help keep them dry, until ready to use. Pumpkins can last weeks or even months stored this way.
When you’re ready to use them, give your pumpkin a rinse, and then prepare according to the recipe instructions. Another way to preserve your pumpkin is to make pumpkin purée, which freezes well. The purée can be used in any recipe that calls for pumpkin purée, including pies, soups, cakes, and muffins.
10 Pumpkin Varieties to Try
1. Black Futsu
These squat 3-to 5-pound pumpkins are as warty as a witch’s nose, and with skin that can range in color from dark green to orangish-gray they’ll stand out among an assortment of orange and white pumpkins. While black futsu can be eaten raw, cooking brings out its sweet, nutty flavor. With their smooth, creamy flesh, black futsu pumpkins are perfect for soup.
2. Sugar Pie
3. White Baby Boo
A cute, miniature pumpkin, the baby boo is known for its ghostly white exterior. Inside, you’ll find rare white flesh (most white pumpkins are orange inside). This pumpkin may look ornamental — and it does look stunning on your porch — but it’s 100% edible and great for stuffing and roasting whole.
4. Porcelain Doll
Maybe the closest shade to millennial pink you’ll find in a pumpkin, the porcelain doll pumpkin has pale, pinkish-orange skin and a flat, oblong shape. This big, sweet pumpkin is great for purées, pastas, and soups.
If you close your eyes, you can practically see the Cinderella pumpkin transform into a horse-drawn carriage. Known in France as Rouge Vif D’Etampes for their reddish coloring, these were dubbed Cinderella pumpkins in the U.S. in the 1950s. Cinderella pumpkins are excellent for purées and chutneys, but they can be a bit watery so it’s important to drain the purée well if you are planning to use it in baked goods. The Cinderella pumpkin’s size and shape makes it the perfect choice for this vegetarian stuffed pumpkin masterpiece or this pumpkin stuffed with Gruyère and bacon.
Take the Cinderella pumpkin and turn it blueish green, and you’ve got yourself a Jarrahdale, named for the town of the same name in Western Australia. Jarrahdales are exceptional for cooking, thanks to their sweet flavor, so plan to use them in pumpkin-based baked goods like muffins, cakes, and pies.
7. Lumina White
8. Long Island Cheese
9. Harvest Moon
Ranging in color from green to ghoulish gray-blue, the Harvest Moon is great for decorating, and its easy-to-crack outer shell makes it easy to cook with too. This pumpkin is a great choice for both roasting and baking, especially for a recipe like this pumpkin hummus, but the harvest moon is also delicious served raw. Consider shaving or grating the bright orange flesh into a salad.
Also known as Japanese pumpkin, kabocha can either have mottled green or dark orange skin (as pictured above). With a flavor on the sweeter side of butternut squash, kabocha can take on a sweet role in pies, cakes, and muffins, but it’s also wonderful in savory recipes, such as this beef and kabocha squash soup. You can also substitute kabocha for sweet potato or butternut squash (it’s sometimes classified as a squash, in fact) in many recipes. And don’t sleep on the seeds. Roast or air-fry them for a nutty, crunchy treat.