Few plants put a smile on our faces as easily as the humble pumpkin because whether you’re five or sixty-five, we all have good memories associated with this harbinger of autumn. Whether it’s that slice of Thanksgiving pumpkin pie slathered in whip cream, the Halloween Jack-O-Lanterns that haunt the night of October 31st, watching Linus get burned while waiting for the Great Pumpkin or even anticipating that spiced latte that only comes but once a year – it is the most proletariat of fruits (yes, it is technically a fruit). So, I thought I would entice you with an A-Z of its many incarnations, including some closely related gourds and squashes.
Autumn Buckskin – We often don’t think of brown as an autumn colour but this buff beauty fits right in with those orange, red and green pumpkins and gourds. It also has thick, deep orange flesh that is high in sugar and is a hybrid-form of ‘Dickinson’, the cultivar that Libbys uses for their canned pumpkin.
Blue Delight – An F1 hybrid which gives you the best of both worlds with its highly ornamental bluish-grey skin and thick orange flesh that is not stringy and highly favoured by cooks. They average 6-10lbs in weight and have a flattened form with deep ribbing. Popular in Australia.
Carnival – A highly decorative Acorn squash which is deeply ribbed with splashes of light and dark green, orange and yellow. This hybrid of Sweet Acorn and Dumpling squash can also be cut in half, seasoned with a little butter and brown sugar and baked to perfection.
Galeux d’Eysines - A Bordeaux heirloom (dating from the 19th century) with distinct salmon-pink skin covered in tan peanut-like warts. Despite appearances this is an excellent culinary pumpkin with sweet, bright orange flesh that is quite smooth when pureed, making it ideal for those Thanksgiving and Christmas pies.
Green Apple – The newest and trendiest ornamental cucurbit that is also known as the Tinda Gourd (Lagenaria siceraria). While not edible, it has a shelf life of 100 days and perfectly resembles a green apple (like the ones on the centre of my old Beatles 45 records) with interesting mottled skin resembling that of a watermelon.
Grizzly Bear – One of the new designer pumpkins with unique caramel coloured skin nicely accented with random warting – it is both rustic and beautiful. These smaller F1 hybrids average 6-8 lbs and are a part of the Super Freak series.
Howden – A popular Jack-O-Lantern type with an upright form and only light ribbing, making it relatively easy to carve. The fruits average 14” tall and the large seed cavity allow you to hollow it out with minimal effort. While edible, the orange flesh is not the best for cooking.
Indian Doll – An F1 hybrid pumpkin with deep ribbing and a flattened form, making it ideal for stacking in displays. The mid-orange skin is occasionally streaked in pale orange and the flesh is excellent eating.
Lunch Lady – A seed strain of enormous gourds (from 5-20 lbs) that come in all shapes and sizes. They all eventually develop hard shells and warty skins, with many of them being two-tone in colour. One of your best choices for autumn décor.
Moranga – A Brazilian heirloom (the name means pumpkin in Portuguese) with a flattened form and deep lobing. The salmon-coloured skin will develop mottling as it matures and the flesh is traditionally used to make Camarao na Moranga or ‘shrimp stuffed pumpkin’.
Porcelain Doll – The ‘first’ pink pumpkin with a deeply ribbed and slightly squat form and that unique porcelain pink skin. The upper end of the size ranges from 20-25 lbs with sweet orange flesh that works well in pies or soups.
Porcelain Princess – Smaller than ‘Porcelain Doll’ (7-10lbs) with attractive pink skin and deep ribbing. The bright orange flesh is also quite tasty, so this beauty also doubles as a culinary delight.
Rascal – A large flat, pink pumpkin which often develops unique bluish-green streaks on the bottom side. The thick orange flesh is also a must-have for baking and cooking.
Rouge Vif d’Etampes – A French heirloom which was a bestseller back in the Paris Central Market during the 1880s. The name translates as ‘bright’ or ‘vivid red from Etampes’ and these flattened pumpkins also colour rather early in the garden. Also known as the Cinderella pumpkin, they are as delicious as they are beautiful and one of your best choices for making a creamy pumpkin soup.
Turk’s Turban – A highly decorative squash from the late 1700’s with a unique two-tiered form fantastically streaked in red, orange, green yellow and white. This is a favourite of mine which averages 10” across and while it is edible, it is not the tastiest of squashes.
Warty Goblin – Medium-sized pumpkins with bright orange skin nicely textured with raised deep green warts. Averaging 8-20lbs, these beauties require no additional decoration and are a favourite of the kids.
White Schoolhouse – A smaller pure white pumpkin with only light ribbing, making it ideal for younger children to paint on or decorate. Using a black sharpie marker, these are easy to convert into Jack Skellington heads from the Nightmare Before Christmas.
My Favourite Pumpkin Recipe
I though I’d leave you with the recipe for my favourite pumpkin dish (which also works well with squash or zucchini blossoms) even though it’s meant to be used much earlier in the year when we have more flowers at hand. Still, few seasonal foods rate as high as my daughter’s deep-fried lemon-basil pumpkin blossoms, with its crunchy coating and warm goat cheese filling that just melts in your mouth with every bite.
1. Pick twelve fresh pumpkin or squash blossoms (with stems) in late morning.
2. Preheat canola or grape seed oil to 370F in deep frying pan.
3. Prepare tempura batter by whisking 1 cup cornstarch, 1 cup all-purpose flower and 1.5 cups of cold soda water and keep in fridge until ready to use.
4. Prepare the filling by mixing ½ cup goat cheese (room temperature) with the zest of 1 lemon, ½ cup fresh basil leaves, 2 cloves of chopped sautéed garlic and 1 tbsp. of heavy cream in a blender.
5. Carefully hold open the blossoms and spoon in 1 tbsp of filling, twisting the end to close it up.
6. Dip the stuffed blossoms into the cool tempura batter by holding onto the stem and carefully drop into pre-heated oil.
7. Fry until batter is a crispy golden brown, remove, season with a pinch of sea salt and enjoy right away.
Well I hope you get the opportunity to enjoy my daughter’s recipe next year but for now, have a safe and happy Thanksgiving.
By Mike Lascelle
All Images Copyright 2020 MK Lascelle