If you’re a flower farmer looking to make stunning pumpkin centrepieces, a home baker looking for the perfect pie pumpkin, a parent looking for a large pumpkin variety to carve with your kids, or any pumpkin lover in between, you’ve come to the right place!
In this blog post, I share my favourite pumpkin varieties for baking, arranging, cooking, decorating, carving, and more. Let’s get into it!
The best pie PUMPKINS
Everyone wonders if fancy heirloom pumpkins are good for anything other than decor–and they definitely are! If the pumpkin flesh is bright orange with thick walls, the pumpkin will be perfect for pies and puree for baking.
My favourite pie pumpkin comes from some random seeds my father-in-law gave me some time ago. I call this variety the “Early’s Pie Pumpkin” as I’m fairly certain the seeds were from Early’s Farm and Garden Centre in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. These mystery seeds reseed, they’re prolific, and they make the perfect pumpkin pie.
Jarrahdale and Sugar Baby are similar varieties that also make perfect pies!
fastest-growing PUMPKIN VARIETIES
Pumpkins typically need 100 days or more to maturity. In fact, in colder climates like Zone 3, you’ll often have to bring your pumpkins indoors before they’re totally mature. Not to worry, as they’ll continue to ripen beautifully indoors.
Smaller varieties like Jack Be Little or Baby Boo can be ready in as little as 85 days.
sweetest PUMPKIN VARIETIES
Look for varieties that are considered pie pumpkins or sugar pumpkins. Some examples are Sugar Baby, Baby Pam, Baby Bear and Sugar Bush. Apparently, the words Baby and Sugar seem to be good indicators that it will be a sweet-tasting pumpkin.
best PUMPKINS for carving
When choosing a carving pumpkin, look for varieties that are larger with thicker skin and less flesh. You can carve pumpkins that are meant for eating, but it will be more difficult to get the pieces out, as the walls are much thicker. Some of my favourites include Jack O’ Lantern, Appalachian, and Gold Fever.
largest PUMPKIN VARIETIES
Dills Atlantic Giants are the standard for growing a large, competition-worthy pumpkin. Nova Scotia farmer and pumpkin breeder Howard Dill spent over 30 years developing this giant pumpkin variety. The heaviest Dills Atlantic Giant weighed in at over 2, 500 pounds and you can purchase seeds for pumpkins ranging between 300 and 1,00 pounds on the Howard Dill website. Some other giant pumpkin options are Big Max, Prizewinner, and Big Moose.
Looking for something large, but not ridiculous? Try Cinderella, Autumn Gold, Connecticut Field, or Howden Biggie.
smallest PUMPKIN VARIETIES
Bigger isn’t always better. Smaller varieties are great for decor, for kids to play with (ask me how I know!), and to make centrepieces with if you’re a flower farmer. My favourite decorative pumpkins are Baby Boo and Jack Be Little, but Jack-B-Quik, Wee-B-Little, and Casperita are also good choices.
pumpkin varieties by colour & texture
Looking to grow a rainbow of pumpkins? This is the place to start! Pick at least one pumpkin (or squash) from each of these categories to get a variety of colours and textures.
- Dwarf Tiger Striped
- Lil’ Pump-ke-mon
- One Too Many
- Sweet Lightning
- Calabaza Squash
- Carnival Squash
- Colorado Sunrise
- Speckled Hound
- Futsu Black
- Galeux D’ Eysines Squash
- Grizzly Bear
- Marina di Chioggia
- Warty Goblin
- Black Kat
- Dark Knight
- Futsu Black
- Blue Doll
- Blue Hubbard Squash
- Crown Prince
- Kabocha Squash
- Marina di Chioggia
- Total Eclipse Squash
- Autumn Gold
- Baby Bear
- Baby Pam
- Big Max
- Big Moose
- Cinnamon Girl
- Connecticut Field
- Dill’s Atlantic Giant
- Early Giant
- Jack of Hearts
- Musquee de Provence
- New England Pie
- Galeux d’Eysines
- Porcelain Doll
- Winter Luxury
- Cinderella/Rouge Vif d’Etampes
- Red Kuri
- Autumn Crown
- Kentucky Field
- White Pie
- Baby Boo
- Lumina White
- Polar Bear
- White Boer
- Jaune de Paris
- Long Island Cheese
- Mellow Yellow
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT PUMPKINS
What are the easiest pumpkins to grow?
You might be disappointed by my answer, but there really is no easiest variety. All pumpkin varieties have their unique challenges. That being said, any standard orange pumpkin is fairly easy to grow.
As long as you give your pumpkin lots of nutrients (meaning compost and manure in the hole where you plant it), you should have success! Barring squash bugs, vine borers, beetles and other pests, of course.
Can you eat the fancy-coloured pumpkins or are they just for show?
The short answer? Yes, you can.
The longer answer? You’d be surprised how many of those fancier decorative varieties are actually really good pie pumpkins. Make sure you read the description on your seed pack, as many of the fancier heirloom varieties are delicious in pies, purees, and more, but not all are meant for eating.
I’ve grown Jarradale and made fantastic pumpkin puree from it in the past, but so many of the coloured, warted, striped, and spotted pumpkin varieties are good for cooking and baking if you do your research (and some of the “pumpkin” varieties we know and love are actually squashes which are delicious in vegetable bakes, soups, and stews!)!
RELATED: The Best Pumpkin Recipes
Where can I Buy Specialty Pumpkin Seeds?
Honestly, the usual suspects that we link to at Shifting Roots are all great places for specialty pumpkin seeds: Johnny’s Selected Seeds and Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds in the U.S. and West Coast Seeds, Veseys Seeds, and William Dam Seeds in Canada.
What are your favourite specialty pumpkin varieties? Let me know what I missed!
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