Home Gardeners
Pumpkins – Spooky Good Eating!
Sarah Browning, Nebraska Extension Educator
Pumpkins – Spooky Good Eating!
'Blue Prince' pumpkin produce flattened fruits with white-blue skin. Image from All-America Selections.

We know fall has arrived when pumpkins begin decorating porches and our favorite pumpkin spice foods appear in stores, including - new this year - Pillsbury pumpkin spice rolls and Philadelphia pumpkin spice cream cheese. Pumpkin pie, and other pumpkin desserts, are favorites at many holiday celebrations.

Diversity among pumpkin varieties is incredible! With sizes ranging from 4 ounces to over 1,000 pounds, various unique shapes, and brilliant colors like orange, yellow, white, green, blue, gray, pink, and tan, there are endless opportunities to select the perfect pumpkin. But with all this “pumpkin abundance”, which is the best to use in baking or cooking?

Picture of cinderellas Carriage PumpkinChoosing the Perfect Pumpkin

If you’re looking for a cooking pumpkin, it's best to select a pie pumpkin, also called sugar or sweet pumpkins. They are usually smaller than jack-o-lantern types with sweeter, denser, less watery flesh. But if you really want to use a jack-o-lantern type pumpkin for cooking you certainly can and should have fairly good results. Just don't plan to cook with a pumpkin after it has been carved and displayed - these should be discarded.

Misshapen or warty specimens are as safe to eat as those which are perfectly round and smooth. Blue pumpkins, white pumpkins and other less common varieties are becoming increasingly popular. Even types which are technically pumpkin-like winter squash, such as Amish Pie, Galeux D’Eysines (a French heirloom cultivar also called the peanut pumpkin), Jarrahdale, Turk’s Turban, Long Island Cheese and Rouge Vif D’Etampes (Cinderella) can be used in cooking and baking.

Picture of Pepitas Pumpkins.All-American Selection (AAS) Pumpkins

Look for the following pumpkin cultivars as you shop this fall or consider growing them in your garden next year. As AAS winners, they have been trialed at many sites across the United States and chosen because they outperformed similar cultivars currently on the market in plant health, vigor and ease of production.

  • Baby Bear – Small 1.5-2 pound, rich orange fruits are perfect for decorations or cooking. Their orange flesh is fine grained and great for pie filling. Expect 8-10 small fruits per plant. AAS 1993 winner.
  • Blue Prince – Vigorous plants produce 7-9 pound flattened fruits with white-blue skin. The flesh is deep orange and non-stringy with a sweet/savory flavor. One judge commented, “Overall, if I was looking for a blue pumpkin to display AND eat, I’d pick this entry every time!” Trailing vines 5 or more feet in length. AAS 2020 winner.
  • Cinderella’s Carriage – This updated version of Rouge Vif D’Etampes is vigorous and robust, with higher powdery mildew resistance than its predecessor. The flattened, pumpkin carriage-shaped fruits are pinkish-red, although some lucky gardeners may get a few pale blue fruits, too. Plants have long trailing vines and can be expected to produce 5-7 fruits per plant, 18-20 pounds each. Their flesh is yellow, sweet with a nutty flavor. AAS 2014 winner.
  • Orange Smoothie – Small 5-8 pound pumpkins with a long, strong handle. Fruits are early maturing; only about 90 days from seed to harvest. Plants are more compact than many other pumpkins, having a semi-determinate growth habit. Vines reach about 30 inches in length. The pumpkins are round and smooth with only shallow ribs, and sweet orange flesh. AAS 2002 winner.
  • Pepitas – Medium sized, 9-12 pound fruits, have beautiful golden orange rinds with dark green streaks; their unusual coloration makes them perfect for decorations and cooking. The powdery mildew resistant plants are vigorous with trailing, spreading vines. Expect 5-6 fruits per plant with pale yellow flesh and bountiful hulless or naked seeds perfect for roasting! AAS 2016 winner.

For more information about these pumpkin cultivars, and other great vegetables for the home garden, visit All-America Selections.

Images from All-America Selections.

  1. 'Cinderella's Carriage' is an updated version of the Frech heirloom cultivar 'Rouge Vif D'Etampes'.
  2. 'Pepitas' pumpkins have beautiful golden skin with streaks of dark green.

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Associated Video

Go Gardening Pumpkins

Nebraska Extension Landscape Horticulture Specialist Kim Todd talks about growing pumpkins.