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How to Choose the Perfect Pumpkin

I've always thought that we don't choose pumpkins. They choose us! There is an unwritten magical connection when when you find the perfect pumpkin. It is fun to watch our customers choose their pumpkin. What one person rejects as ugly, too tall, too short, or too fat; the next person will exclaim and rejoice announcing their beautiful find.

Use this section to find the perfect pumpkin to fit your needs.

Where to Find the Perfect Pumpkin

 

Boy with his perfect pumpkin

 

Where will you find your perfect pumpkin? At a pumpkin farm of course! Sure, you can put your little one in a chrome shopping cart and choose your pumpkin from a cardboard bin sitting on hard linoleum underneath flourescent lights . . . or . . . you can make a memory!

 

Take your child to a real farm and let them experience first-hand where pumpkins come from. Many farms will allow you to choose a pumpkin directly from the field. Most farms have many varieties in all different colors, shapes and sizes.

 

While you are there, some farms allow you to visit with farm animals and climb on haystacks. Many farms offer fresh apple cider (sometimes made on site) and yummy gooey caramel apples.

 

Now, isn't that better than a grocery store? Not only have you made a memory, but you will also help a small family farm to be more sustainable in the process. If you plan on eating your pumpkins, you can talk to the farmer, and learn about his farming practices. You can feel confident about what you feed your family, when you know where your food comes from, and how it was grown.

Carving Pumpkins

 

You will never go wrong with a Jack-O-Lantern variety for carving. They were bred just for that purpose. They have stiff straight walls, fibrous flesh that can stand up to being carved, and hollow cavities perfect for holding candles. There are several other varieties that can be carved also. The Lumina is particularly fun to carve. The interior flesh is orange. When a candle is placed inside is gives off an eerie glow through its ghostly-white skin.

 

Physical characteristics to look for in choosing a quality and fresh Jack-O-Lantern:

 

  • Choose a pumpkin that feels firm and heavy for its size.
  • Choose a pumpkin that has consistent coloring throughout.
  • Turn the pumpkin over and place pressure on the bottom with your thumbs. If it flexes or gives your pumpkin is not fresh.
  • Look for soft spots, mold, wrinkles or open cuts that would indicate damage or early spoilage.
  • Choose a pumpkin with a solidly attached stem.
  • A green stem indicates a freshly harvested pumpkin.
  • Place your pumpkin on a flat surface to check to see if it will sit flat after being carved.

Painting Pumpkins

 

Orange Smoothie, Cotton Candy, and Lumina are all good varieties for painting pumpkins. They have especially smooth skin and shallow ribbing. All of the orange pumpkins in the photo (left) are Orange Smoothies. They are a good eating pumpkin, so be sure to use a non-toxic paint. You can eat them when you are through decorating.

 

Decorating with Pumpkins

 

There are a number of pumpkins that you can use to decorate with for the fall season, and then bake with for Thanksgiving.

Add some gourds and Indian corn into the mix, and you can create a festive long lasting decorative display.

 

Vignette

 

Pumpkins and squash come in a rainbow of colors for a diverse and appealing display. Suggested varieties include:

 

Bright Orange Red:

 

Cinderella, Red Warty Thing, Turban, Orange Hubbard, Red Kuri, Sunshine

 

Orange:

 

Jack-O-Lanterns, Pie Pumpkins, Orange Magic

 

Winter Squash & Pumpkins

Top L to R: Cushaw Green, Blue Hubbard,
Cushaw Gold, Red Warty Thing, Pink Banana

White:

 

Lumina, Cotton Candy or Valenciano, Full Moon, Baby Boo

 

Full Moon

Top L to R: Bottle Gourd, Butternunt, Jack-O-Lantern
Full Moon, Corsican Drum

 

Yellow:

 

Spaghetti Squash, Small Wonder, Halloween in Paris

 

Gourd Barrell

Top L to R: Assorted Minature Gourds

 

Dark Green:

 

Green Hubbard, Marina Di Chioggia, Acorn, Buttercup, Cha Cha

 

Blue:

 

Queensland Blue, Jarrahdale, Sweet Meat, Blue Hubbard

 

Winter Squash & Pumpkins

Top L to R: Sweet Meat, Pink Banana
Red Warty Thing, Cushaw Gold, Blue Hubbard
Cushaw Green

Green & Cream Stripe:

 

Cushaw Green, Delicata, Carnival, Sweet Dumpling

 

Yellow & Cream Stripe:

 

Cushaw Gold, Festival, Celebration

Winter Squash

Top L to R: Full Moon, Hooligan

Turks Turban, Sugar Pie

Orange & White:

 

One Too Many

 

Tan & Pink:

 

Butternut, Pink Banana, Tahitian Butternut, Amish Pie

 

Fairytale

Fairytale - Musque de Provence

 

Mahogany & Dark Tan:

 

Long Island Cheese, Musque De Provence

 

Green & Orange:

 

La Estrella, Kakai

 

 

Gourds

Speckled Swan Gourds

Pie Pumpkins

 

CinderellaCinderella Pumpkins are a unique French heirloom whose correct name is "Rouge vif d'Etampes." The source of their nickname is they resemble the pumpkin that Cinderella's fairy godmother transformed into a carriage. This pumpkin is recorded as possibly being the variety cultivated by the Pilgrims, and served at the second Thanksgiving dinner. This is our favorite pumpkin variety. There is something magical about them. Cinderellas make a delightful decorative accent for the fall season, but additionally their flavor is good for any pie or winter squash recipe.

 

Pink BananaPink Banana is a delectable squash that is a superb keeper and makes a sensational pie. The flesh is finer grained and sweeter than a standard pumpkin, and your family will rave at the difference. When found commercially at the grocery store you generally see this sold in chunks covered with clear plastic wrap instead of whole. Instead of pumpkin pie for holidays, we traditionally ate squash pies made by great-grandma Barlogio using Pink Banana squashes.

 

Sugar PieSugar Pies are the modern baking pumpkin. If you want to bake pies, and want a pumpkin instead of squash, this is the pumpkin for you! The skin is very thin, the flesh is sweeter and substantially finer-grained than a jack-o-lantern type pumpkin (they were bred for thick rinds and stability when carved . . . not eating!). It is also quite dry which makes for a more stable pie. We guarantee you'll be delighted with the results.

 

Blue HubbardThis squash was likely used by your great-grandmother and is a fall tradition still today in New England. Finely-textured, yellow-orange flesh that is medium sweet and medium dry with a very hard rind. It is also suited for soups and all of your holiday baking needs.

 

 

 

Pumpkin Seeds

 

KakaiYou can eat the seeds from any pumpkin variety. Some seeds are quite large, and others are very small. Some have really thick hulls. There are some varieties however, that are especially good for toasted pumpkin seeds. Kakai seeds are completely hull-less. How cool is that?!? They are very attractive with their bright orange and green stripes. After decorating with them, be sure to save the seeds. Snack Jack and Baby Bear are both good for seeds also as they are semi-hull-less. For information on how to toast pumpkin seeds click here.

 

 

Soup & Stew Pumpkins

 

Red KuriRed Kuri is a teardrop-shaped baby-red Hubbard- style fruit. They have a smooth-textured flesh. They are good for pies and purees because specks of skin (being red) will not show. They are also know as Orange Hokkaido and are from Japan.

 

KabochaThere are many varieties of Kabocha-style squash. They are all excellent used in soups and stews. They have a very firm dry flesh and lend themselves well to savory dishes. I have seen Cha-Cha, Kabocha and Buttercup squashes used as a soup tureen to hold the soup prepared from additional squash. To use as a tureen, clean out the seeds and stringy material, brush with butter, and cover with aluminum foil. Only partially bake the shell so it will hold its shape when filled with hot soup. After dinner, finish baking the squash and use it in other dishes.

 

ButternutA Butternut has the longest storage potential of all squash varieties. The longer you store it, the sweeter and nuttier the flavor becomes. The flesh is orange, smooth-textured, and has a unique sweet flavor — particularly after 3 months of storage. It will easily store in a cool place through February. This squash is commonly used for soup, pies, and is even terrific as a stand alone entrée.

 

Stand-alone Dish

 

DelicataDelicata is one of our favorite winter squashes. They aren't big, but they make up for it in flavor. Delicata has a very sweet light- orange flesh. Excellent for stuffing and baking. Prepare as you would an Acorn and eat right out of the shell.

 

CarnivalIsn't it attractive?!? The best part? It tastes as good as it looks! It will store for several months and still maintain an excellent eating quality. Their flavor is somewhere between an Acorn and a Delicata. This squash is also excellent stuffed with your favorite meatloaf recipe. Yummy!

 

Other good choices as stand-alone dishes are: Sugar Loaf, Sweet Dumpling, Acorn and Butternut.

 

Stuffing

 

AcornAcorn squash have an orange-yellow flesh. The flavor is sweet and nutty with a smooth texture. For best sweetness, wait at least 2 weeks after harvest before you eat them. These are quick and easy to prepare. Slice in half, scoop out the seeds, place halves face down on a plate, place in a microwave, and zap them on high until fork tender. Flip them over and fill the center with butter, brown sugar or maple syrup. Eat them right out of the shell. An added bonus is that this squash is excellent stuffed. Yum!

 

Sweet DumplingSweet dumpling winter squash are round, dainty, and a perfect single serving size. It has a very sweet, tender golden-orange flesh and is terrific for an individual stand-alone entrée or for stuffing. Very similar in taste to the Delicata. If they don't sit perfectly level just trim a bit of the bottom off before baking.

 

Buttercups and Turban Squash are also excellent for stuffing. Instead of individual servings, the squash serves as a main entrée and serving dish all in one.

 

Bowls & Tureens

 

Baby BearMy favorite pumpkin to use as a soup bowl is a Baby Bear. They are just the right size for individual servings and the flesh is very tasty.

 

Be sure to only partially bake your bowl so that the sides will still stand firmly.

 

Jack-Be-Littles and Lil' Punkemon also make nice individual serving bowls. You can use almost any variety of pumpkin for a large tureen. Jack-O-Lanterns will work as well even though we don't think of them as a culinary pumpkin. If you want to scoop some of the flesh as you serve the soup, you should use a culinary variety.

 

Breads, Cakes & Cookies

 

Sweet MeatSweet Meat flesh is finely-textured, with a sweet, delicious flavor. Sweet Meat is not commonly found in California or on the West Coast, but it is one of the most popular winter squashes for eating and baking in the rest of the United States.

 

All pie pumpkin varieties are also good candidates for all your baking needs.

 

With Marinara Sauce

 

Small WonderSpaghetti Squash makes a delicious pasta substitute. Prick the fruit with a fork all over, boil or bake until tender. Then scoop out the "spaghetti" and serve with sauce, butter or chilled in salads. Spaghetti squash stores extremely well. This variety of Spaghetti Squash is smaller and perfect for a family meal. The flesh is a bit darker in color, is high in vitamin A and has a mild buttery taste.