My oldest and I are on the lookout for the most interesting pumpkins and winter squash. Check these out at your local farm stand and use our tips to help you choose the best ones for carving, cooking and decoration.
CARVING: YES, but a bit more difficult because of the warts.
COOKING: YES. The meat tastes wonderful. However, the seeds are not as good roasted.
DECORATION: YES, choose one to be the focal point or group a bunch together.
This one’s not just for display! It’s an all-around “eater”. They make tasty pies, baked goods, chips and soups. Its name is derived from Eysines, a small town in southwestern France. The word “Galeux” means mangy. This phrase creatively gets translated as “embroidered with warts from Eysines”. Compare pumpkins. The more peanut-looking growths, the sweeter it will be. Sugar coming to the surface as it ripens makes the fantastic, textured bumps.
CARVING: NOT RECOMMENDED but can be done by an adult, carefully.
COOKING: YES. The meat is nutty and the flavor is on the weak side. Seeds are ok roasted.
DECORATION: YES, and fun to paint because of the gray background. Carve the skin without going all the way through for a wonderful orange outline and texture.
This sophisticated winter squash originates from Jarrahdale, Australia, a small timber town (jarrah wood) credited with playing a large role in the development of the western part of the country. When you slice open its slate-colored skin you’ll love how it contrasts with the bright orange flesh! It might be a hard one to carve because the skin is a bit thick. It’s got a mild, sweet, nutty flavor so you can cook with it for sure – one of several grey pumpkins we spotted at the farm stand.
3. Pink Banana
CARVING: It’s possible but use it for eating instead because it tastes so delectable.
COOKING: ABSOLUTELY YUMMY. Flesh is less stringy than others. Seeds are good roasted although not as plentiful as your traditional pumpkin.
DECORATION: YES, but why waste such an amazing tasting squash?
It’s sweet and fine – makes a great pie. The pink banana squash can grow a couple feet long and reach 40 pounds! Save the seeds from this one so you can plant your own.
CARVING: NOT recommended – has a thick rind.
COOKING: FOR SURE! Makes a great pie. Use it in soups too.
DECORATION: YES, love the blue-gray color but I prefer to eat it. I like to make pumpkin/chocolate cookies with this one.
Hubbard is a popular winter squash – not because we grow or buy it more than others. Manufacturers of canned pumpkin use this squash instead of the real thing because it is sweeter, less stringy and richer in flavor. To use it at home, cut it in half, remove the seeds and roast for 90 minutes at 375°F. Peel, puree and add to your favorite recipe.
5. Red Kuri
CARVING: Not so much – too small unless you are into miniature things.
COOKING: YES. Use this one for baking and for savory dishes, especially great or purees. Seeds are yummy roasted.
DECORATION: YES, arrange in a crowd for impact.
Red Kuri is a tear-shaped squash or a “cute little pumpkin” as my youngest calls it. This one will taste nuttier than others and more flavorful than a butternut. I saw a recipe online using it in a coconut curry dish and may try that someday. Use it for baking and soups. For me, this one needs to be stuffed. I’ll hollow it out then loosely fill it with chunks of the squash meat, sausage (spicy for my husband), apples, zucchini, chopped sweet onion and shallots plus herbs like marjoram. With the top back on, it bakes for 1-1/2 hours at 375°F. Kids will enjoy the seeds!
CARVING: No, too small and flat.
COOKING: Not recommended, but interesting used as a vessel to hold food or drink! I like to stuff these with sausage and veggies.
DECORATION: Of course. You can fill a big basket with these and use as table decor. Love the coloring. This pattern would make an amazing finish on a rustic table or as a fabric design.
Lil’ Pump-Ke-Mon has creamy skin and orange groves. The older the pumpkin gets, the more intense the stripes. I like how there are flecks of green here and there. This one is pretty on the outside but not the sweetest inside (like some people) and so I use it as a bowl to serve soup!
7. One Too Many
DECORATION: DEFINITELY. Maybe we can come up with a better name for this one.
Both appropriate and inappropriate for a Sunday morning , the “One Too Many” looks orange but the color is actually red on top of cream – named after a drunk’s bloodshot eyes! The taste is nothing special so guess we would use it for decoration or as a conversation piece.
CARVING: YOU BETCHA! Carve this one using the warts as features.
COOKING: OK for cooking but not a pie variety. Seeds are ok roasted.
DECORATION: YES carved or not, they look great anywhere, anyhow.
This makes us all chuckle because one of the first words my youngest girl spoke was “knucklehead” – a term my husband frequently calls both bad drivers and people reverberating their cheap car stereos. Knuckleheads range from 12-16 pounds and work perfectly for carving scary, mystical or wacky themes. The warts on this “Superfreak” pumpkin change color over time!
CARVING: Not usually but you could try. Not recommended for children to carve because of the thick skin.
COOKING: Not unless you want a filler food or you are skilled at adding flavor. This one is kind of dull in the aroma department.
DECORATION: YES because of its striking green and orange pattern.
An heirloom Iran squash would give you lots of contrast in seasonal decorations (even used as a vase for flowers). People do eat it but it’s not one of the most flavorful varieties. These 20-pounders can be stored for up to a year! Wouldn’t it be interesting to see if you could keep it for next season. Iran is considered a “landrace”, a locally cultivated plant that improves over time by adapting to its environment. I read in a scientific journal (Biochemical Systematics and Ecology) that this particular squash is grown in 14 regions in Iran (more than 650,000 tons produced). Farmers have shared their seed with each other over hundreds of years producing genetically diverse strains. The more genetically diverse, the less susceptible to disease it is. It’s a “pumpkin” with a “past”.
CARVING: MUST CARVE VARIETY! The inside is bright orange. Carve a picture on the skin!
DECORATION: Carved, painted or plain, these simply look cool.
Carve these and the orange glow from inside will be striking! Huge white pumpkins are fun since the canvas is “primed” and ready for paint! I read on a forum that they are kind of bland for eating and probably should be reduced first if used for baked goods.
11. Long Island Cheese
CARVING: NO, too small.
COOKING: YES, this is a true pie pumpkin but also tastes great in soups or sliced and roasted.
DECORATION: YES, they’re cute. BUT I prefer to eat them so that it doesn’t go to waste.
Lots of pumpkin pie recipes call for Long Island Cheese – pumpkin that is! It’s shaped like a wheel of cheese and colored like the rind. If you want to try something new this year in your baking, roasting, stewing or custard recipes, give this one a go. Back in the 50’s “cheese pumpkins” were popular on Long Island, New York. They started to become harder and harder to find in the late 70’s until a well-known seed saver from that area, Ken Ettlinger, brought it back to life and founded a seed company. He is currently a professor of natural sciences at Suffolk Community College in New York.