Typically, when people visit their local family owned pumpkin patch for Halloween, they aren’t looking for dinner. The majority of the nearly 2 billion pound pumpkins grown in the US each year are carved rather than eaten, making the pumpkin a unique part of agriculture. For people who prefer seasonal recipes over decorations, this may raise a few questions: Are the pumpkins sold for Jack-O-Lanterns different from the pumpkins sold as food? And are Halloween pumpkins good to eat?
The pumpkins that can be found on farms and outside of supermarkets in October are what most people know, but that’s just one variety of pumpkin. Howden pumpkins are the most common decorative pumpkin variety. They were specially bred for carving in jack-o-lanterns, with a symmetrical round shape, a deep orange color, and a sturdy stem that doubles as a handle. Buyers looking for the perfect carved pumpkin also have other options: The field pumpkin varieties Racer, Magic Wand, Zeus, Hobbit, Gold Rush and Connecticut are to be displayed on the porch steps for Halloween.
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To get the best possible pumpkins this fall, avoid the seasonal supermarket displays. Many varieties of pumpkin are specially bred for cooking and eating. These include Sugar Pie, Kabocha, Jack-Be-Little, Ghost Rider, Hubbard, Jarrahdale, Baby Pam, and Cinderella Pumpkins. You can buy these varieties by name from local farms or from your local grocery store’s goods department. Apart from the carved pumpkins available for Halloween, they should be easy to recognize: In contrast to decorative pumpkins, cooked pumpkins are small and dense. This is one of the reasons why they taste better. Says McKelvey. “[Cooking pumpkins] are smaller, sweeter, have a thicker shell (meatier) and less fiber, which makes cooking easier – but not as good for carving. “These pumpkins can be stuffed, mixed into soup, or simply roasted.
If you’re looking to get some culinary benefit from your carving pumpkins this Halloween, set the seeds aside when you scoop the guts out. Roasted with spices and olive oil, seeds (or pepitas) from different types of pumpkin become a delicious and nutritious snack. Another option is to turn the meat of your Halloween pumpkin into puree. Adding sugar and seasoning and baking it into a dessert can go a long way in masking the overwhelming taste and texture of the fruit.
Whatever you do, make sure your pumpkin isn’t already carved when you decide to cook with it. There are many ways to recycle your jack-o’-lanterns, but turning them into cakes isn’t one of them. “If you plan to cook with a carved gourd, it should be intact,” McKelvey tells other small animals. “