Issue: October 2001

Pumpkins Ready for Eating, Decorating

The familiar orange pumpkin captures the magic of crisp October nights, harvest moons and Halloween. Jack-o'-lanterns light the paths of trick-or-treaters, while the fresh-baked smell of pumpkin pie fills the air.

Notwithstanding their traditional holiday uses, pumpkins were originally grown for their seed, which can be roasted and salted for a nutritious snack. Some varieties have been developed for their naked seed, created by a mutation that prevents the normal tough seed coat. 'Triple Treat,' a 6-to-8-pound bright, orange-fruited variety, is popular for its hull-less seed that can be eaten raw or roasted. Its rounded, 9-inch diameter fruit make great jack-o'-lanterns and tasty pies.

Pumpkins and winter squash have similar characteristics, but pumpkin rinds are usually softer than those of winter squash, and pumpkin flesh is generally coarser with a stronger flavor. When mature, most pumpkins have an orange color and provide a good source of Vitamin A.

However, many pumpkin varieties are white. 'Valenciano,' for example, is a medium-sized, flattened type that is almost snow white. 'Lumina'--a 10-to-12-pound pumpkin with a ghostly white pallor--is great for carving or painting and still has orange flesh inside that is perfect for pie.

Small white varieties like 'Baby Boo' also make good table decorations at 3 inches in diameter with an edible white flesh and skin. Its cousin, 'Jack-Be-Little,' is 3 inches in diameter and 2 inches tall, in a more traditional orange. Both can be combined with other harvest decorations.

Farmers and gardeners often grow traditional medium to large orange varieties like ‘Howden,’ 'Ghost Rider,' 'Autumn Gold' and 'Racer' for their relatively uniform shapes. When selecting for a jack-o'-lantern, choose a well-rounded variety with good color and a firm stem. Fruit with a broken stem will rot sooner, and stems make great handles.

This Halloween, make pie from a fresh pumpkin rather than a can. The 4 to 6 pound 'New England Pie' variety is particularly popular. Its relatively stringless, dry, starchy flesh provides better filling than larger, coarser varieties.

To assure gigantic pumpkins for next Halloween, try planting varieties like 'Big Moon,' 'Atlantic Giant' and 'Big Max' next spring. These varieties can produce fruit of more than 100 pounds. But beware: Vines will take over the entire garden and gardeners will need strong backs to haul these monsters off to the State Fair.

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For more gardening information, visit New Mexico State University's Cooperative Extension Service publications world wide web site at

George W. Dickerson, Ph.D., is is a horticulturist with New Mexico State University's Cooperative Extension Service. New Mexico State University is an equal opportunity/affirmative action employer and educator.

Also Please join us on Southwest Yard & Garden, a weekly garden program made for gardeners in the Southwest on: KNME-TV Albuquerque at 9:30 p.m. Saturdays, KENW-TV Portales at 10 a.m. Saturdays, and KRWG-TV Las Cruces at 11:30 a.m. Saturdays (repeated at 1 p.m. Thursdays.)