Strangely Wonderful Pumpkins and Squash
Big orange jack-o'-lanterns are grand. Stuffed acorn squash is yummy. Butternut squash makes great soup. But when it comes to the most creative front stoop decorations and the most memorable culinary creations, heirloom pumpkins and squash are the winners.
What's old is new: Chances are, when your grandparents sat down to give thanks, the pumpkin pies, stuffed squashes and breads on their tables were made from one of these antique beauties. (Little did they know then how loaded they are with Vitamin A, Beta Carotene and iron.) The resurgence in local farming has led to a resurgence in the availability of these and other heirloom varietals. So if you've found yourself standing at the farmer's market, wondering "What do you call this?" we have the answer: Read on.
Red Kuri Heirloom Squash
This beautiful little antique comes from Japan, where it is known as a great keeping variety. Another smaller squash that's easy to handle and boast's delicious, sweet meat, this beauty can be substituted in many winter squash recipes.
Carnival Heirloom Pumpkin
It may be too small for a jack-o'-lantern, but the Carnival and its cousin the Sweet Dumpling still make good decorations, and ... well, if not dumplings, then maybe pumpkin ravioli.
Fairytale Heirloom Pumpkin
Like a vision right out of Cinderella, the pumpkin known as Fairytale has the high, deeply ridged cheeks that are often found in the older varieties. The greenish-brown coloration of the skin makes it very decorative. It could be the biggest jack-o'-lantern on the block... and who says you can't carve a pumpkin for Thanksgiving, too? With the fairytale, there's plenty of gourd to go around.
Long Island Cheese Heirloom Pumpkin
This is a pumpkin that is flat, tan, and utterly delicious. Inside is a buttery orange. Dry, non-stringy meat produces the most delicious pies, much favored by gourmet bakers.
Jarrahdale Heirloom Pumpkin
Silvery blue on the outside, vivid orange inside, Jarrahdale squashes are almost too pretty to eat. So decorate your doorstep for a day, then bake it in a pie (or something more interesting).
Hubbard Heirloom Squash
Move over butternut. Old timers know that the blue Hubbard squash is one of the best keepers in the winter squash family. Stored in root cellars or even in unheated bedrooms, many a farm family relied on this beautiful vegetable to see them through the winter. Today, we love them for their quirky good looks and dry, delicious, non-stringy meat. Substitute it in your favorite winter squash recipe.
Rouge vif d'Etampes (Red Stamps) Heirloom Pumpkin
A very old favorite from the old central market in Paris in the 1880s, and as pretty as it's meat is sweet, the rouge vif d'etampes (red stamps) may be French, but it has a long history in America. Make a new tradition with a devilish jack-o'-lantern for Halloween, or maybe a soup or side dish for Thanksgiving.
Provedence Heirloom Pumpkin
Another pumpkin with a French heritage, this one is ripe even when its skin is mostly green. Inside, it's all orange, with characteristic pumpkin flavor. Substitute it for any pumpkin recipe, or carve it for a twisted Halloween surprise.