A Pumpkin Primer


With Halloween just around the corner, we're making our final picks for the perfect Jack o' Lantern. Every fall, our plant experts head to auctions across the Pennsylvania countryside in search of the year's very best pumpkins. Our stores are now fully stocked with their picks of the patch, from the prettiest pumpkins to the spookiest squash. Read on to learn about some of our favorite varieties for fall decorating, baking, and carving.

1. American Tondo: An old Italian variety, this striped beauty is a relatively new face in the United States. Thick ribs and deep green bands against an orange background make the perfect pair of color and texture for fall decorating. This variety can reach up to 15 pounds, but is best for eating when harvested young. 

2. Cinderella: A unique French heirloom properly known as Rouge vif d’Etampes, this decorator's favorite gets its nickname from the famous fairytale. Historical record suggests that this variety was cultivated by early American settlers and eaten at the second Thanksgiving dinner. Today, it remains a good choice for any pie or winter squash recipe. 

3a. Blue Hubbard: Introduced by New England seed trader and squash expert James J.H. Gregory, this popular squash gets its name from Elizabeth Hubbard, the woman who gave Gregory her heirloom squash seeds. Noteworthy thanks to its blue-gray hue, this winter squash is a long-lasting variety with firm, bright-orange flesh inside. 

3b. Pink Rascal: We love this squat, deeply-furrowed pumpkin for its unique, pale pink hue and tasty, fine-grained flesh. Bred specifically to raise funds for cancer research, a portion of the seed sales from this new variety are donated each year.

4. Warty Gourd: Splashed with shades of deep green and bright orange, we love this bumpy member of the Cucurbita family for fall decorating. There's a sweet story behind the lumpy texture of the skin-- the high sugar content of these varieties cracks or erupts the skin, causing "warts."

5a. Snake Gourd: Similar in flavor to a cucumber, this unusual variety is native to southeast Asia and northern Australia, where it is sometimes used by Indigenous Australians to make traditional digeridoos. If you're not feeling musical, the winding shape and marbled skin of snake gourds also makes them a great pick for autumn centerpieces and planters.

5b. Peanut Pumpkin: This pale orange variety, also known as Galeux d’Eysines, gets its name from the distinctive, peanut-shaped bumps that cover its shell. Thought to be a cross between an unidentified pumpkin and a Hubbard squash, the Peanut originated in Eysine, France in the 19th century. Don't be fooled by its rough exterior-- after the decorating season is through, its sweet flesh is ideal for cookng and baking.

6a. World of Color: Weighing in at 50-100 pounds, these colorful giants come in a wide variety of shapes and colors, from white and gray-blue to peach and deep, red-orange. World of Color is our favorite for showstopping doorstep displays, but you may want to bring a friend to take yours home!

6b. Prizewinner: Smooth and glossy with deep, red-orange skin, these giant pumpkins get their name from their remarkable size; they can weigh up to 300 pounds. That may sound impressive, but it pales in comparison to the world record-holder-- a Swiss gardener grew a whopping 2,096 pounder this fall!

7. Knucklehead: Both decorative and delicious, these knobbly pumpkins have a reliably upright shape and vivid, orange shell. Their sweet, yellow flesh is great for roasting, but their even proportions and uniform shape make them an even better pick for spooky Jack o' Lanterns. 

8. Striped Cushaw Squash: An heirloom variety from the American South, this crookneck squash is also known as the Tennessee Sweet Potato Squash. Weighing 10-20 pounds on average, these striped specimens add unique color to fall displays with bands of green and white. With a slightly smoky, summer squash flavor, they make a great substitute for pumpkin in pie-baking. 

9a. Turk's Turban: An heirloom dating back to at least 1820, this curiously shaped squash is named for its distinctive shape. Shades of orange, green, and white can appear on one specimen, making them a star for fall displays. 

9b. Long Island Cheese: The Long Island Cheese gets its name from its pale orange hue and flat, circular shape, which give it a strong resemblance to a wheel of cheese. The most popular variety for pie-making in the United States, these lightly-ribbed specimens have smooth, string-free flesh with a superb flavor.

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