Picking out the right pumpkin

Photo by Sacha BurnsMia picked out the biggest pumpkin she could find this year.

Pumpkins, pumpkins everywhere. If you have been anywhere out and about lately, you almost surely have run into pumpkins for sale.

Pumpkins are one of those fun things where all pumpkins are really a form of winter squash, but not all winter squash are pumpkins. They come in all shapes and sizes. There are warty ones, and white ones, and of course your orange jack-o’-lantern classics. It is more a matter of preference than anything else when deciding on which pumpkin to take home.

My daughter Mia this year has already followed in her Grandma Sue’s footsteps of being the one to pick out the biggest pumpkin she could find. The one rule was that you had to be able to carry it. We wandered over to Coulter’s in Westville and Mia took her time deciding on what she thinks is the best pumpkin ever, and she was able to carry it.

There are carving pumpkins that have an easier flesh to cut through, but typically don’t last too long if we end up with warm days before Halloween. Don’t place your carved pumpkin indoors, as the indoor temperatures will cause them to decompose quicker. Some folks will coat theirs with poly spray or hair spray to preserve them once carved, but since ours are fed to the goats after Halloween, we leave them all natural so that we don’t end up with a sick goat from trying to get our pumpkin to last a bit longer.

If you are looking for indoor pumpkin that you can carve there are now decorator ones in stores made of foam type material that you can carve and leave indoors forever. And if carving isn’t your thing, those little mini pumpkins usually are OK to hold up a couple weeks indoors, just don’t forget about them.

If you are looking for a pumpkin that you will be wanting to eat, then you will need to be a bit choosier. Pie pumpkins are the best actual pumpkin to cook with, but winter squash tastes quite a bit better in my opinion. If you are baking a pie, look for a variety with a dry flesh inside, usually you can ask or there will be signage telling you which squash is best for which applications.

If you are wanting a squash for soup, you will of course be looking for one with a higher water content. One of my favorite heirloom varieties is Galeux D’ Eysines which is also called a Peanut Squash because it is covered with bumpy growths that look like peanuts.

All-purpose winter squash does exist as well where you could roast them, make pies, or even soups all from one variety. I typically will roast them first, and if there is any left over, I will usually craft it into a soup, which tastes all the better using roasted squash. Jarrahdales which are a blue/green color and bright orange Hubbard squashes are perfect for this.

Many of the pumpkin farms in our area and stores carry a variety of all types of winter squash and pumpkins, but to get the very best, I tend to go to the farmers market on years such as this when I didn’t grow my own. There you can hear real experience from the farmer on how they use the squash themselves.

Be sure to get out there and try some of this wonderful fall goodness and carve a few pumpkins while you are at it.


Sacha Burns is an organic gardener and owner of Sunkissed Organics in Pinola. She may be reached at sachabrittburns@yahoo.com.

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