With Halloween just around the corner, pumpkins are quickly being adopted from area farms to spend the fall at their new homes. But what kind of pumpkin is perfect for pies? Which one makes the best Jack-O-Lantern? What makes some pumpkins white and others orange and does that affect its usage?
Charlie Brown was oft in search of the Great Pumpkin—and that elusive squash may very well have been a large Atlantic Pumpkin. These are typically the “contest” pumpkins that can weigh 100 pounds or more!
Perhaps Charlie would have done better with a more manageable sized pumpkin. Weighing in at about 5-10 pounds, Cheyenne Bush pumpkins are a picture perfect variety of round orange crops. For those who like a larger pumpkin but still prefer the standard orange, Connecticut Field Pumpkins tend to double the size of the Cheyenne Bush. These are the ones that are taller and more oblong in shape. Both of these are fairly common in Pittsburgh area farm markets and are typically sold by the pound. These are great for fall crafts, carving, and displaying as autumnal décor.
For those who are gifted with the ability to bake the perfect pumpkin pie, there are a few go-to varieties for sweetness and flavor. Sugar Pie pumpkins, as their name implies, are perfect for baking projects. They are fairly small in size and have a very sweet rind that is used often in canning and baking. Jarrahdale pumpkins, known by their wrinkled blue appearance, hold a very prominent place in the fall decorating world but also have a perfect taste for baking. Baby Pam and Mystic pumpkins are also great for baking with similar qualities as the Sugar Pies. If in doubt about the type of pumpkin, most baking pumpkins are smaller, bright orange, and have straight stems.
You may be wondering why you’re suddenly seeing so many white pumpkins. Many popular women’s magazines have been featuring these beauties as great centerpieces for a Thanksgiving table. Known as Lumina pumpkins, these are perhaps the most versatile variety. They can be carved for a spooky Halloween display, used in baking pies, or used in pumpkin soup. The Lumina is white on the outside when it is ripe, though it has an orange rind just like the previously mentioned pumpkins. When it is overripe, it may take on a bluish tint.
One last pumpkin that is seldom mentioned is the deep red Cinderella Pumpkin (also known as the Rouge d’Etamp). These are wider and shorter pumpkins—much like the one pictured in the Disney classic that lends this fruit its namesake. With a sweet flesh, these can also be used in baking.
Pennsylvania is one of the top growing states for pumpkins—though they grow in every continent except Antarctica. Perhaps this is why we barely felt the effects of the 2009 pumpkin shortage that affected much of our country. The rains that season washed out the pumpkin crop in Illinois where Nestle’s Libby’s brand operates. With most of the market cornered by their expert pumpkin canning, much of the United States was left without their favorite pie on Thanksgiving due to the shortage. Here in Pennsylvania, we have friendly local farmers in almost every neighborhood that are happy to help you find your perfect pick whether for baking, carving, or displaying for a rich, autumnal décor!