types of pumpkins

A pumpkin probably calls a specific image to mind: a large, orange orb, with a green stem. In reality, there are many different types of pumpkin and squash. Winter, Spring, Summer and Fall all have their own unique varieties. They’re all members of the same family, which includes an incredible assortment of culinary fruits and veggies, including gourds, cucumbers and even watermelons! Squash are a large and special part of that family. There are four basic species of squash. But, even within each species, there are radically different varieties.

For instance, pumpkins and zucchini are technically the same species, even though they ripen at different times of the year and look completely different. The real difference has to do with their maturity. Zucchini, and most other “summer squash,” have thin skins and very small, tender seeds. They’re perfectly ripe in summer—and juicy with summer rain. 

The pumpkin is a completely different story. Though pumpkins grow best in the summer, they aren’t ready for harvest until fall. They have thick skins and mature seeds (which are also called “pepitas” and have a distinct flavor). Pumpkins, instead of soaking up water and using it to create a tender fruit, use it to grow large, sturdy, and hearty enough to survive cooler weather. They mature slowly and aren’t ready to be picked until autumn. 

Put it simply, fall squash don’t mind waiting. And it’s absolutely worth the wait. The recipes in this chapter take full advantage of fall’s hearty squash (seeds, too).

What’s the difference between a squash and a pumpkin?

The difference between a squash and a pumpkin is largely social. It’s fair game to call any squash with a hard shell a pumpkin (no offense to zucchini). 

What’s the difference between a gourd and a pumpkin?

Gourds have a hollow, dried-out shell, and are primarily grown for ornamentation. Most types of pumpkin have thinner skin and edible flesh. They are typically grown and harvested to eat, although some varieties are tastier than others. 

Types of pumpkin and hard squash 

Acorn Squash

acorn squash

Named for its acorn-like shape. Ripens in late fall. Produces edible flowers. 

Blue Hubbard Squash

Blue Hubbard Squash

An especially durable variety. First advertised in the U.S. in the 1850s.

Butternut Squash

butternut squash

Versatile, diverse. One of the most popular culinary squashes. Developed in Massachusetts in the 1940s.  We love it in everything from pie to pasta.

Delicata Squash

delicata squash

An heirloom variety introduced by a New York City seed company. Delicate flesh makes it hard transport on a large scale. Mainly available from small-scale, local farms. 

Kobocha Squash

kobocha pumpkin squash

Tastes and cooks like a cross between sweet potatoes and pumpkins. Often used in tempuras. Brought to Cambodia by the Portuguese. 

Red October Pumpkin

red october squash

Bright red and teardrop shaped. Nutty and mild. Best used simply.

Sugar Pumpkin

sugar pumpkin

A smaller version of the large, decorative pumpkin. Harvested early, just after they turn orange. Higher concentrations of sugar and a creamier, smoother texture.

Spaghetti Squash

Mellow, nutty. When cooked, its flesh can be separated into long strands that resemble noodles. Introduced to the American market from Asia in the 1930s.

Sweet Dumpling Squash

sweet dumpling pumpkin squash

Has a three-month maturation period and needs direct sunlight to mature. Grows all summer, soaking up light. Not ripe until mid-fall. Try baking this cute little squash whole.

Tardiva de Napoli

An Italian variety. “Tardivo” literally translates to “late.” Named for its late ripening period. Certain cabbages with similar characteristics share the name. 

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