A Guide to All the Different Types of Pumpkins
For aficionados, the beauty is in the bumps—and the curves, tonal colors, and unique marbled, mottled patterns. Learn how to identify these top heirlooms and hybrids.
Welcome to Cucurbita, the genus of pumpkins, squashes, and some gourds, the edible and ornamental fruits of fall. Once you recognize the variety of shapes and sizes, all kinds of decorative possibilities open up. There are so many types of pumpkins—why stick to the standard orange icon of fall? Pale and monochromatic, bright and bold, eerily enigmatic, or elegantly dark and moody also abound.
There are five common species of Cucurbita: ficifolia (chilacayote squash and Malabar gourd), maxima (Hubbard, 'Lakota,' buttercup, and winter squashes), mixta (cushaw squash), moschata ('Shakertown Field' and 'Long Island Cheese' pumpkins), and pepo (jack-o'-lantern varieties, delicata squashes, ornamental gourds). The wanton willingness of each species to cross-pollinate with members of its own kind can create some curious offspring. Kabocha, the so-called Japanese squash, sports knobby black-green skin that's often striped in celadon. The rinds of Australian squashes, such as 'Jarrahdale' and 'Queensland Blue,' vary from dusty gray to greenish blue. French pumpkins, such as the elegant 'Rouge Vif d'Etampes,' dubbed the Cinderella pumpkin, tend to be low to the ground and often display deeply ridged lobes. 'Galeuse d'Eysines' and 'Marina di Chioggia' are both pocked with bumps caused by a buildup of sugars underneath their skin and look scary even before they're carved.
Their looks are as different as their names. Some sit bulging and broad, secure in their squatness. Some stand tall and are considered pear-shaped. They're ellipsoidal and spherical. They can be wide-shouldered or slump-shouldered. The biggest even approach a ton; the smallest would barely tip the needle on a bathroom scale. The colors of their skin also vary enormously. Start with every tint of orange, of course, from amber to apricot, coral to persimmon. Then envision inky black or ghostly white; buttercream or slate blue; sage green or darkest myrtle. Some favor even more outlandish hues: baby pink, mustard, salmon, fiery red. Some aren't content with a single shade at all, so they tart themselves up in stripes, mottles, marbling, and speckles.
All in all, they provide a color, size, and shape for every decorative idea you have this fall.
As adorable as their name suggests, these edible, palm-size minis become more uniformly orange as they ripen. They are the perfect choice (along with other mini-sized pumpkins such as the Baby Boo, Munchkin, or Sweetie Pie) for individual table setting decorations or decorating in small spaces.
Field Trip F1 Hybrid
Weighing in at five to seven pounds each, with long, sturdy stems, these orange gourds are perfect for kids to grab and go.
Rouge Vif D'Etampes
This classic heirloom was mentioned by famous French seed house, Vilmorin, as the most popular pumpkin in Parisian markets of the 1880s. Its name translates to "Vivid red from Etampes," a nod to the medieval town just south of Paris where it was grown for market. W. Atlee Burpee was the first to introduce Rouge Vif D'Etampes to U.S. gardeners in 1883. The attractive shape and color make this a phenomenal decoration for autumn displays. More than just a pretty pumpkin, this variety is the standard for French soup stocks.
Flavorful and nearly stringless, this Australian heirloom is delicious to eat and ranges in color from dusty gray to greenish-blue. Other blues of note are the pale blue Blue Max, the Kabocha and the Kakai (both popular in Japan), and the Blue Lakota possessing an oblate spheroid shape.
These ghostly white beauties are known for their long and distinct handles, typically a warm shade of green, along with their bright-white hue, and excellent shape. This pumpkin is perfect for creating a decorative holiday or seasonal display with lots of contrasting color. The color of this pumpkin won't easily alter due to sun or frost. Other white pumpkins of note are Lumina, the Sirius Star, and the Super Moon.
Also known as musquee de Provence, they are heavily lobed and very popular. Chefs love their sweet, creamy flavor.
Long Island Cheese
The color of this pumpkin resembles that of a pale cheese, thus its distinct name. This medium-sized pumpkin typically weighs about 10 pounds, has light ribbing, and is known for its sweeter taste. This classic pumpkin dates back to the 19th century.
This gorgeous French heirloom produces a flattened globe with salmon-peach skin. The knobby, shell-like bumps on this French heirloom (also called galeux d'Eysines) are caused by a buildup of sugar beneath the skin.
Tandy F1 Hybrid
This understated variety has pale butternut-colored skin, a slightly oval shape, and a strong green stem.
This rare Japanese specialty is recognized by its unique black, warty skin and nutty, fresh flavor. Bright orange flesh has firm texture that is sweet and buttery roasted or light and fruity raw. Delicious julienned and quick-cured with salt in winter slaw. They ripen in winter storage, when the green halo between the flesh and skin disappears and skin turns from black to chestnut.
Warty Goblin F1 Hybrid
Dare little hands to touch this spooky showstopper, which has lurid, lumpy warts that pop against the shiny skin.
One Too Many F1 Hybrid
A round white fruit with reddish veining, it's said to resemble bloodshot eyes on the morning after; hence its cheeky name.
The luminous ghosts of the pumpkin world, they even have white flesh under their stark white shells.