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Oct 22, 2010 10:13 AM

ISO guide to culinary differences in varieties of pumpkin and winter squash

I haven't had any success googling for this - too many results, nothing comprehensive. What I'd like to find is a listing, with photos, of various varieties along with their characteristics. NOT recipes, just what they are best used for. E.g., "this variety has a tough skin with sweet, dense flesh", "this variety has watery, mild-flavored flesh".....

I was at a local farmstand where they had many visually interesting cucurbitae but no one there knew the culinary differences, so I fought the temptation to buy the "peanut pumpkin" and others.

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  1. If I may hitchhike along with this thread you've started, I have a related question. I notice the "decorative" pumpkins and squashes are 19 cents per pound, but the edible ones are $1.00 per pound. Don't they all need the same amount of labor, water, etc. to grow?

    I see this book @ Amazon --
    I don't know if this is what you're actually looking for, but it claims to uncover the "personalities" of various pumpkins etc.!

    3 Replies
    1. re: blue room

      The price difference reflects usage, not just grower's costs. That is to say, all edible or decorative squashes could be sold for 19 cents a pound, factoring in total cost, theorectically, but the edible ones are worth so much more, by just being edible; in the eyes of the consumer, a pumpkin for pie has much greater value than a decorative gourd for the centerpiece, therefore the price difference.

      Something to do with perceived value, if I (barely) remember my college economics correctly. Anything that has a greater "perceived" value will cost more, regardless of it's production costs.

      1. re: blue room

        Yes, I remember seeing Amy Goldman on Martha Stewart's show when this book came out. From going through the Amazon reviews, it appears that she does talk about the usage and characteristics. I'm sure it's a worthwhile book but I have declared a moratorium on my bookshelves and was hoping to find a website with the same info so I could just print out a list. There's always the library and a notebook, I guess.

        As for the price differential, I'd think it's supply and demand. People don't want to pay a lot for a temporary decoration that will either rot, be smashed by hooligans, or eaten by wildlife. Some but not all decorative varieties are good eating.

        1. re: greygarious

          Here's a seed company, describing heirloom squash & pumpkin types--maybe this will add to your info.

      2. Googled around and found this:

        It isn't comprehensive by any means, but it does have some good info.

        3 Replies
        1. re: biondanonima

          Thank you! This is just what I was hoping to find, although the author's opinion that pumpkins aren't worth eating is not universal.

          1. re: greygarious

            LOL - I agree. I found that statement particularly funny since he lists "Fairytale Pumpkins" as being excellent for baking. I was in Trader Joe's this morning and they had really beautiful Fairytales - I was considering buying one but wasn't sure if they were good for more than decor. Now I know!

            1. re: greygarious

              Most assuredly it's not a universal opinion!! At home we make a great mashed pumpkin with gravy and braised chicken and even haters love it.

          2. I like this site, Grey...


            There's very good infomation about the Fairytales too. I've grown a similar variety from seed, "Rouge vif D'Etampes", as an ornamental, though.

            7 Replies
              1. re: Gio

                Thanks, Gio. I did find that one before writing this post. While it is quite comprehensive, I wish it had photos along with the descriptions. It doesn't help me identify the unlabeled cucurbitae that the local farmstand sells.

                1. re: greygarious

                  This is a good guide to over 40 kinds of squash (or is it squashes?) with photos.

                  1. re: toveggiegirl

                    Quite comprehensive AND squash photos!

                    Combining links, Gio's and your's, should make one pretty cucurbitae savy.

                      1. re: toveggiegirl

                        Makes me want an acre of land just for squash...

                    1. re: toveggiegirl

                      Oh Love that site! I think winter squash is my second favorite vegetable...the first being eggplant. It's so versatile and tasty.

                  1. re: paulj

                    I liked the cooking instructions on that site. We used to prefer ButterCup over ButterNut squash because buttercups are drier. Then I tried growing Confection from Johnny's which are similar but more flavorful, in fact, too dry until weeks after harvest but also terrific keepers. Both have tougher skins so I microwave first to soften. I've read that the skin is edible and noticed some was left on the winter squash slice I had in a temperu dish recently but I've noticed that there's an outer layer of skin that should probably be removed. When the squash is microwaved, it seems to separate off.

                    I grew a Pennsylvania Dutch squash this year (in addition to Confection) because I was seduced by the seed catalog description that it was popular with Amish cooks. It is very watery and resembles a butternut squash with a long curving neck. The good part is it can be peeled without much effort but I've had to add maple syrup to improve the flavor. I probably won't grow this one again unless the flavor improves with storage. I will probably use it for baked goods where the addition of spices and sugar will help the flavor.

                    I tend to follow recipes exactly but sometimes a simple substitution becomes obvious to me. A dry squash like Confection or ButterCup can be cut into large cubes and used in Massman Curry instead of sweet or white potatoes. I pre-cook in the microwave. I don't think butternuts would hold their shape during even the short amount of cooking my curry recipe calls for (I used the recipe on the can of seasoning).

                    I plant to roast the Pennsylvania squash to see if that works better. My husband asked me if I could do a better job of draining the squash because it is so watery.

                    I think the flavor of the squashes can vary depending on what the growing season was like, when picked and how long cured. My squashes change flavor during storage. Confection gets sweeter and less dry but it is still a very dry squash. The difference between Confection and Butternut is the former might need some of the cooking liquid added during mashing. Butternut can be so watery it is never drained well enough. (I will let it sit on the stove so more water will come out before a second or third draining.)

                    Thanks for posting this question. I am tempted to find a good farmstand so I can try some of the other varieties before devoting garden space to growing them.

                    But I've also considered growing a lvariety of them and starting my own squash stand.