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.