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Boutique Pumpkin Varie
Courtesy Terroir Seeds LLC
The nutty-flavored Black Futsu pumpkin has a compact vine, which makes it ideal for gardners with limited space.
Many specialty pumpkins were bred decades ago for their use in the kitchen, and they continue to be so, though North America hasn’t caught onto it quite yet. The history of many of the heirloom pumpkin varieties is long, and the breeding efforts to develop new boutique choices continue. Here are some exceptional varieties:
Jere Gettle, owner of Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds in Missouri, a retailer of specialty pumpkin and squash seeds, says, “The New York Times listed [Black Futsu] as their favorite pumpkin a few years back.” And deservedly so. The flattened, round fruit has heavy ribbing and a bumpy rind. They have dark green-black skin with golden, nutty flavored flesh. Gettle adds that this is a good variety for gardeners with limited space because the vine is more compact than other varieties. He also finds that it has moderate resistance to insects and diseases.
A French heirloom with salmon-peach skin covered in tan peanut-looking warts, this variety is a complete show-stopper. The longer these fruits mature, the wartier they become. This corking results from expanded fractures in the skin that occur because of the fruit’s high sugar content and thin skin. The flesh is very creamy and smooth and is a favorite for pies and soups. Its name means “embroidered with warts from Eysines”—the small city in France from which it hails.
Marina Di Chioggia
Sometimes called the sea pumpkin, this variety is surely one of the prettiest pumpkins you’ll ever grow. The 4- to 10-pound, round and flat fruits are a deep blue-green, and the skin is covered with innumerable smooth bumps. The flesh is bright orange and delicious.
Hailing from Australia, this variety produces 6- to 10-pound, slate-blue fruits shaped much like a flattened drum. They’re round with deep ribs and beautiful, smooth skin. The flesh is dry and smooth with a nice fragrance. The rind is very dense. Gettle says you may need an axe to cut it in half—but that thick skin pays off: Jarrahdale stores for up to two years!
Courtesy Terroir Seeds LLC
The pure-white Lumina pumpkin is great for cooking.
Musque de Provence
Often called “the fairytale pumpkin,” these flat pumpkins are shaped much like a wheel of cheese and can weigh up to 20 pounds each. Their heavy lobes and deep ribs start out dark green and mature to a deep mahogany color. The variety hails from southern France, boasts decent pest resistance and keeps for up to one year in proper storage.
One Too Many
A recent introduction from the Rupp Seed Company, this pumpkin is a pale cream color with orange-mottled netting all over. The fruits can be either round or elongated and weigh 15 to 20 pounds each on average. It is said to have good tolerance to mildew.
A tri-lobed heirloom pumpkin from Australia, Triamble ranges in color from a pale slate-blue to a deep green. It’s a novelty pumpkin with an excellent flavor. The skin is very hard, making it a long-lasting storage pumpkin, too.
These pure-white, flattened fruits are surprisingly elegant. The 12-inch-diameter fruit stands a mere 6 to 8 inches tall and has light ribbing.
Rouge Vif d’Etampes
Translated as “red life of the times,” this French heirloom is sometimes called the Cinderella pumpkin, as it looks much like the carriage-making pumpkin in the fairytale (shown on page 50). Large fruits ripen to a deep orange-red color. They are flattened, deeply lobed fruits that are reported to have been the variety served by the pilgrims at the second Thanksgiving. Gettle suggests harvesting them when they are 9 to 10 inches across, long before the skin hardens. “Pick them young, and fry them whole. They have an excellent flavor,” he says.
Red Warty Thing
The name pretty much says it all! Round, bowling ball-shaped pumpkins are bright red at maturity. They weigh 10 pounds or more and have hard, bumpy skin.
A beautiful, ribbed pumpkin. The skin is deep orange with green stripes between the ribs. Fruits weigh 4 to 6 pounds.
Grey-, green- and peach-colored skin that looks like it was watercolored onto the fruit. This is a newer variety that is the result of hybridization efforts at the University of Florida. Fruits weigh up to 10 pounds each and have deep-orange flesh.
A pure-white, classic-shaped pumpkin measuring 8 to 10 inches across. Flesh is great for cooking.
Long Island Cheese
The smooth tan skin and flat shape of this pumpkin make it look much like a wheel of cheese. Weighing as much as 20 pounds each, Long Island Cheese is an excellent roasting and baking pumpkin with deep-orange, sweet flesh.
A super-cute mini-pumpkin with stark-white skin, this variety is exclusively for decoration and is a real hit with children.
People may look at these distinctive pumpkin varieties and laugh. The laughter, though, translates into purchases. After all, their individuality is their appeal. It seems that these fruits have got the gutsy eccentricity most of us wish we had. They are special plants, indeed.
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About the Author: Horticulturist Jessica Walliser is the author of Good Bug, Bad Bug: Who’s Who, What They Do, and How to Manage Them Organically (St. Lynn’s Press, 2008). Her love of boutique pumpkins arose when she came across a collection of them on a garden tour four years ago. She’s now utterly smitten and grows several varieties of her own.
This article originally appeared in the September/October 2010 issue of Hobby Farms.