Best Pumpkins for Table and for Storage

Some of the pumpkins I bought at Walmart this year, grown by Frey's Farms.

Some of the pumpkins I bought at Walmart this year, grown by Frey’s Farms.

Having eaten eight or nine varieties of pumpkins last fall and this winter, I’ve learned that most pumpkins taste just about the same. Although I was warned that the Halloween pumpkins wouldn’t be as good as the pie pumpkins, for the most part there wasn’t any serious difference in flavor or texture. If you’re looking for pumpkins for pie, look for mature fruit. That’s the real key to this. In the Halloween variety, look for one that has a dark brown color, not bright orange. If it’s dark brown It stayed on the vine longer and it ripened.

Out of this fairly uniform herd of pumpkins, a few do stand out. Pumpkins are like winter squash, and need to stay on the vine as long as possible to develop full flavor, sweetness and nutritional value. In today’s farming world, few of them do. When you buy one of these traditional winter vegetables in a grocery, you’re buying what the farmer thought was his best chance at making a profit. Pick it, ship it, get the money. The best pumpkins and squash require more time and more risk.

If you are lucky enough to have a good selection of pumpkins to sort through, you can beat the game sometimes. Like some winter squash, a few pumpkins get sweeter in storage. I know of two varieties that are a good bet for this, although one year of experimenting won’t prove it. I know of one other that has an excellent reputation, but it didn’t pan out for me this time. If you are growing your own pumpkins this coming year and want a variety that is good for the table as well as for sugar-enhanced pie, these are your best bets:

Sugar Pie — You can get seed for this under so many names that it’s pointless to list them all. Look for New England Pie Pumpkin or Amish Pie Pumpkin or Sugar Pie Pumpkin. The fruit is orange when nearly ripe, dark brown when fully ripe, and the rind is so tough when mature that you might need a saw to open one up. This variety stores well and might last six months off the vine if you care for it properly. If the plant was healthy and the fruit had time to mature, it’s one of the sweetest and best.

Best of the year

Best of the year

Maori — I’ve seen names like Kumi Kumi and Kamo Kamo for this one, but the pumpkin is the same, an heirloom variety from New Zealand. It seems like a good bet for North America, since New Zealand is anything but tropical. For flavor and sweetness, it’s the equal of Sugar Pie, and the fruits typically grow larger than the favorite New England type. I bought several of these and the early meals were good but not sweet. After two months of storage, holy crap, the Maori pumpkin was the best ever. Was it a fluke? I’m not sure, but it seems like a good bet for storage just to find out. I got mine from Frey Farms and it’s so good I’ve saved the seed and will try it myself, don’t even care if it crossed with something. It’s damn good.

Red Kiri or Red Kuri — Some people call this the chestnut pumpkin because it has a reputation for being as sweet as a chestnut. I bought three and have eaten two and although they were good I did not see any similarity to chestnut and did not find them sweet. I have one left and I’ll try it soon, but I think this might be a problem with early harvest and not with storage. If you don’t leave pumpkins on the vines to mature, and you don’t have healthy vines, you aren’t going to get great pumpkins. I trust that other people have eaten Red Kiri that are as good as chestnuts, but I haven’t found one yet. This seems like a good variety to try in the home garden.

Sweet Dumpling — Although this is sold as a winter squash, it’s clearly a pumpkin type and similar to the Maori pumpkin I found so excellent this year. Sweet Dumpling does improve in sweetness with prolonged storage. If you want to brave the bugs and the fungi and the viruses and try for your own good pumpkins, Sweet Dumpling gives you a chance for that. The problem with any of these pumpkins is that it’s a tricky crop to grow and lots of things can go wrong.

New on Amazon:

Farmers Market Organic Pumpkin, 15-oz. (Count of 12)Farmers Market Organic Pumpkin, 15-oz. (Count of 12)Farmer’s Market Organic Pumpkin is rich, smooth and delicious, and ready to use for everything from baked delights to savory center of the plate ent... Read More >
Green Mountain Coffee K-Cup for Keurig Brewers, Pumpkin Spice, 24 CountGreen Mountain Coffee K-Cup for Keurig Brewers, Pumpkin Spice, 24 CountThe sweet, creamy flavors of cinnamon and nutmeg make Pumpkin Spice just right for fall's crisper days and cooler nights. This warm, aromatic flavor i... Read More >

How to Become a Leading Expert on Culinary Pumpkins

Some of the pumpkins I bought at Walmart this year, grown by Frey's Farms.

Some of the pumpkins I bought at Walmart this year, grown by Frey’s Farms.

To become a pumpkin expert, you first have to eat pumpkins. This old Native American mainstay crop spread all over the world after the Europeans realized America was here. Just like potatoes and corn, it became a common food in every climate where it survives. Today the culinary pumpkin has fallen out of favor in America and neither the average consumer nor the foodie experts know much about it. This year I decided to be different. I bought a total of 18 pumpkins of 8 different varieties and since October (it’s now the week before Christmas) I’ve eaten all but six. I’ve kept them long enough to test whether particular varieties improve with age, and I’ve preserved pumpkin meat of different types by freezing and by drying, just to see what the differences are between that and freshly cooked pumpkin. I’ve eaten pumpkins grown especially for the dinner table, and pumpkins grown for Halloween decorations, and I’ve saved and cleaned and eaten the seeds. The experiment continues, but I think that after this much direct experience plus all the research I’ve done and my past history with pumpkins, I know what I’m talking about. It’s a pretty good bet that I’ve eaten more pumpkins and more types of pumpkins than you or anyone you know.

The thing that caused me to do this was a short cooking segment I watched last year on one of the network TV news shows. A nationally known chef demonstrated how to make a pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving. The first thing he did was open a can of pumpkin, as he explained that canned pumpkin really isn’t pumpkin at all, it’s Hubbard squash. His co-host was surprised by this and asked why he didn’t use fresh pumpkin. He got all upset and said it’s just too much work and there’s no difference, it would take forever to peel, canned pumpkin is fine.

All of this is wrong although some of what he said is true. Sadly, canned pumpkin isn’t pumpkin. It really is Hubbard squash and most people who make pumpkin pies use it without knowing this. The usual pumpkin pie tastes like the eggs and sugar and spices in the pie, and the pumpkin part is just filler. I’ve never liked pumpkin pie, although when I was a kid I would accept a piece so I could use it as a platform for whipping cream or melted marshmallows. I left most of the pie on the plate, and never have developed a taste for it. Even as a kid, though, I knew how to butcher a pumpkin. Mom would always buy two and they usually cost ten cents a pound so it was cheap enough to turn one into a jack-o-lantern and save one for pies.

To butcher a pumpkin, pierce the top carefully and repeatedly to cut a cap out of the top that includes the stem. Make the hole big enough to stick your hand inside, and reach in to scoop out the seeds and the pulpy mess attached to them. Then cut the pumpkin in half, and then in quarters, and then cut the quarters in half and keep doing that until you have wedges or slices about two inches wide and three or four inches long. Set a slice on its side on a cutting board and with a santoku or chef’s knife, slice the rind off, making two or three cuts straight down. There’s no peeling involved. It takes some time but you get a lot of yield from a pumpkin. You can cook some down for pie filling, or you can slice some and dry it for soups and stews, like people did in the old days.

To bake a pumpkin you don’t even need to cut it up. Cut the top off and put the pumpkin and its cap (if room allows) on a pizza pan in the oven. It’s best to use a pizza pan with a rim, because towards the last the pumpkin might drip some juice. Cook at 350 degrees F for two to two and a half hours. Use a wooden spoon to test the pumpkin after two hours of baking. If the flesh still has uncooked areas, give it more time. The cap will cook faster, so you can pull that out towards the end and sample the pumpkin. Individual fruits vary a lot in sweetness and flavor even within varieties. If you use the baked pumpkin in a pie filling, you might want to cut back on the sugar if it’s a really sweet one. Baking is the easiest way to process a pumpkin, and you simply scoop the meat out afterwards to season and eat fresh, or to use in other recipes.

Halloween pumpkins aren’t grown for the table any more. Hardly anyone makes pumpkin pie from scratch now, and farmers pick their pumpkin crops a little too early for best storage or best flavor because pumpkins that aren’t quite ripe have a more striking orange color. If you want to try one of these in pies, look through the stacks and the bins for one that is dark brown and lonely. That’s a good one. The bright orange pumpkins will taste a little green.

There’s so much to know about pumpkins that it’s easy to understand why it isn’t a big commercial crop any more. If you want to try the many heirloom varieties or unusual hybrids available, you’ll probably need to plant them in your own garden. That’s a risky undertaking in many places, especially if you’re cramped for space. Squash and pumpkin succumb quickly to powdery mildew, a fungal infection that begins as soon as the hot humid weather of midsummer hits. Pumpkins require a long growing season, and the fruits should stay on the vines even beyond the first light frost. Ventilation helps control the mildew, but this will always be a difficult crop for any organic gardener who tries to pack as much into every square foot as possible. Even regular fungicide applications might not be enough. Luxuriant squash leaves and stems attract many insect predators and many other plant diseases. Good pumpkin fruits depend on the nourishment of healthy plants throughout the growing season.

It’s no wonder then, that the quality of both pumpkins and winter squash is unpredictable. At your local market or grocery you could pay high prices for either fruit and get produce that’s unripe and tasteless. On occasion you might get lucky, and buy one that is sweet as a chestnut, as advertised, but that’s not common. If shopping for pumpkins and winter squash, look for fruits with dark-skinned rinds that are so hard you can’t dent them with a fingernail. Acorn squash are a little different and won’t keep nearly so long in storage. They’ll never be tough enough to withstand the fingernail test so don’t try it. Instead, look at the pale spot on the underside of the fruit. If it’s white, don’t buy it. If it’s ruddy yellow, that might be a good one. Some squash and some pumpkins improve with storage, but the curing period recommended by the experts in the Extension Service only extends the storage time. Increased sweetness in storage is due to the variety. Hubbard and Sweet Dumpling squash get sweeter with age. Some heirloom pumpkins do this also, but it’s tough to find out which ones unless you know someone who grows them. I’ve experimented enough to have a few good prospects, and that will be part of my next article.

This year my best source of pumpkins was not the local farmer’s market. I got my pumpkins at Walmart. Frey Farms markets a very good selection of heirloom pumpkins and choice hybrids through Walmart, and Walmart does them very poor service. Probably most people think they are ornamental gourds and just walk past. Somebody needs to hand out samples like they do for pizza and sausage.

New on Amazon:

Farmers Market Organic Pumpkin, 15-oz. (Count of 12)Farmers Market Organic Pumpkin, 15-oz. (Count of 12)Farmer’s Market Organic Pumpkin is rich, smooth and delicious, and ready to use for everything from baked delights to savory center of the plate ent... Read More >
Green Mountain Coffee K-Cup for Keurig Brewers, Pumpkin Spice, 24 CountGreen Mountain Coffee K-Cup for Keurig Brewers, Pumpkin Spice, 24 CountThe sweet, creamy flavors of cinnamon and nutmeg make Pumpkin Spice just right for fall's crisper days and cooler nights. This warm, aromatic flavor i... Read More >
Seeds of Change Certified Organic Squash, Winter, Spaghetti - 3.3 grams, 20 Seeds PackSeeds of Change Certified Organic Squash, Winter, Spaghetti - 3.3 grams, 20 Seeds PackThis heirloom variety produces a unique squash with spaghetti-like strands of flesh that are delicious baked or boiled and served with butter or pasta sauce.

Samsung Chromebook People, Oh My!

Chat InformationPlease wait while I transfer the chat to the best suited Samsung Agent.

You are not currently in a chat session.

Chat InformationYou are now chatting with ‘Tim’. There will be a brief survey at the end of our chat to share feedback on my performance today.

Chat InformationYour Issue ID for this chat is LTK1125602653737X

Tim: Hi, thank you for reaching out to Samsung technical support. Your chat was transferred to me and I will be glad to assist you. Please allow a couple of minutes, while I review the previous chat to assist you better.

Jimmy: When I complete all this it tells me to go to the troubleshooting guide

Jimmy: I’m about to freak out and never buy another Samsung product again. Hi, Tim.

Tim: Hello, hope you are doing good.

Tim: Could you give me a few minutes while I check the information for you?

Jimmy: What about the people who don’t have two phone numbers? It won’t let you complete the form unless you have two.

Tim: That is perfectly understandable.

Jimmy: If it’s understandable you haven’t finished reading what happened

Tim: I understand that you are facing issues with Chrome book and you wish to get the device serviced.

Jimmy: Yay

Tim: I would like to file a request on behalf of you. Is that alright for you?

Jimmy: I have no idea. You might charge me $55

Tim: Just to confirm, Is there any physical damage on the device?

Jimmy: No

Tim: Basically, Samsung provides 12 months of warranty for the device from Date of purchase. If the device does not have the physical damage then repair will be of free of cost.

Jimmy: Just so you understand me, if you send me a bill for $55 you can keep the damn chromebook

Tim: Could you be specific about the Keyboard issue of the device?

Jimmy: I can be specific any number of times. I’ve been specific three times already today.

Jimmy: You might want to read the chat record, I’ve been specific there several times

Tim: Thanks for confirming.

Jimmy: You are welcome

Tim: I see that the Alt Key on Key board had struck.

Jimmy: No

Jimmy: There is not a stuck key

Jimmy: The fault mimics a stuck ALT key

Jimmy: I got the ssame fault when I used a different USB keyboard

Tim: Thanks for providing detailed information for issue.

Jimmy: I’ve tried

Tim: Please provide me with the following details:

Tim: Complete model number of the device.

Tim: Serial number of the device.

Tim: You can find it in Back/rear panel of the device and also on box.

Jimmy: Oh, come on, I’ve been through that too many times already

Jimmy: Once again

Jimmy: XE303C12-A01US

Jimmy: Serial

Jimmy: HY3A91BF306216R

Tim: I would like to file a request on behalf of you.

Tim: Please provide me with the following details:

Tim: 1.Full Name.

Tim: 2.e-mail id registered with Samsung.

Tim: 3.Phone number and alternative number.

Tim: 4.Street address with Zip code.

Jimmy: You only have my permission if it doesn’t cost me $55

Jimmy: Respond in the affirmative please

Tim: I see that the device is under warranty.

Jimmy: Tell me it will not cost me $55

Tim: Basically, you need to follow all the possible troubleshooting steps. It will not cost you if you have followed the same.

Jimmy: I have done this but when I file the service request it demands I do it again, without help.

Jimmy: What do you expect me to do?

Jimmy: What record do you keep that shows I have done this? Our conversation proves you know nothing of this

Jimmy: I want you to confirm that I have done this, provide me with a correspondence record I can copy and paste and blame it on you.

Tim: I will file a request for you. Is that alright for you?

Jimmy: You are not even listening to me.

Tim: I am sorry, You can get the transcript of this chat by clicking on the blue “X close” option and providing the e-mail id in the detail.

Jimmy: Or I can select all and copy, but you are not saying what I need to hear as yet

Jimmy: Please confirm that I have completed all troubleshooting steps as requested and then I will allow you to file a service request on my behalf.

Tim: Thank you for waiting. I’ll be with you in just a moment.

Jimmy: Arrrgh

Tim: I have checked your previous chats and you have followed troubleshooting steps and it will not cost $55 for you.

Jimmy: Thank you

Jimmy: Your system would not allow me to send a service request myself.

Tim: You’re welcome. Merry Christmas!

Jimmy: We aren’t finished

Tim: Please provide me with the following details:

Tim: 1.Full Name.

Tim: 2.e-mail id registered with Samsung.

Tim: 3.Phone number and alternative number.

Tim: 4.Street address with Zip code.

Jimmy: James S. Young

Jimmy: xxxxxxxxxxxx

Jimmy: Why do you need two phone numbers? Some people don’t have them

Jimmy: xxxxxxxxxxxx

Jimmy: Waiting

Tim: Not a problem, You can use the Single number.

Jimmy: Hooray. Your online form won’t allow that, you might want to fix it.

Jimmy: xxxxxxxxxxxx

Jimmy: If you need a sales receipt, I can send a copy in the box with the Chromebook. I already explained that Windows 8 trashed my perfectly good scanner and I’m not buying another one just to do this.

Tim: Just to confirm,Where was the device purchased?

Jimmy: Walmart, Greencastle Indiana

Tim: Could you give me a few minutes while I file a request for you?

Jimmy: Sure

Tim: Thank you.

Jimmy: You’d be sitting in boiling lava if my thoughts could affect you, so you’re lucky

Tim: I will be right with you.

Tim: Samsung offers on-demand service status updates through text messaging. I see you provided your mobile phone number. Are you interested in this service? Standard messaging rates would apply.

Jimmy: I did not provide a mobile phone number because I don’t have one.

Tim: Okay, not a problem.

Jimmy: At this point I don’t have any idea what will happen

Jimmy: Do I send the Chromebook someplace?

Tim: I have successfully filed a service request on your behalf. You will get an email with the service center details and the UPS label for shipping. The transaction number for the service request is xxxxxxxxxx

Jimmy: Will someone send me a box?

Jimmy: Sigh. The heck with, I’ll just see what happens next.

Tim: I have send the request for you and you need to ship the device to service center with UPS label which have been Mailed to you.

Jimmy: OK, good enough. I have the hammer ready as the last option. Thank you for your trouble. Bye.

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Acer C720 Chromebook (11.6-Inch, 2GB)Acer C720 Chromebook (11.6-Inch, 2GB)Acer C720-2848 Chromebook comes with these high level specs: Intel Celeron Processor 2995U, Google Chrome Operating System, 11.6" HD Widescreen CineCr... Read More >
ASUS Chromebook 12-Inch with Gigabit WiFi, 16GB Storage & 2GB RAMASUS Chromebook 12-Inch with Gigabit WiFi, 16GB Storage & 2GB RAMASUS Chromebook C200 – With up to 11 hours battery life

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