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Which is the Best Pumpkin for Your Garden?

By on October 29, 2013

Imagine how much fun it would be to grow all the pumpkins in our Fall Rainbow Mix!

Everybody wants to grow pumpkins. Those beneficent big guys of the vegetable world do take up a lot of garden space, so before you start making hills for the seeds, ponder what you want to do with the pumpkins when fall arrives.

Carving at Halloween? Displaying on your front porch in the autumn?

Are these for eating? As in pies? Seeds to roast? Slicing wedges to eat raw? What? Raw? Yes, we have a special pumpkin for that. Keep reading.

Tricia shows you how to plant, grow, harvest, cure, and store pumpkins in our latest video. There’s a transcript right under the video that you can consult for a written version with all those details.

But to begin at the beginning, what kinds of pumpkins are there, and how do you choose among them?

Grow a Jack-o’-lantern

howden pumpkinWant the archetypal punkin’ head? Plant seeds for Howden in your garden and you’ll glory in classic pumpkins of about 20 pounds, with long “faces” and sturdy rinds that are easy to carve. They store well too, so if you don’t carve them all up you can cook with them later on.

Grow a fairytale pumpkin coach

cinderella pumpkinSet this down in a prominent place inside your house or near your front door, then start thinking that mice might not be so bad if they could be harnessed to draw this around the block. Just like the movies, this picture-perfect pumpkin is called Cinderella. Makes a big statement at 20-40 pounds (and big pies too). This charmer is originally from France, where it’s known as Rouge Vif d’Etampes.

Grow tiny pumpkins up a trellis

jack be little pumpkinJack Be Little pumpkins really are little, at 4” across, and the vines are little too, reaching only five-feet long. So these are tailor-made for growing up a trellis or along a low fence. Either way, kids love picking Jack Be Littles and deciding how to use them—scoop out the innards and make the Jacks into individual serving dishes, or line them up down the center of the kitchen table. You’ll have plenty of time to decide, since these keep for almost a year.

Those raw pumpkins we were talking about

Musquee de Provence is a stunner, isn’t it? “Musquee” describes its musky aroma. Very few seeds and lots of firm, fragrant flesh. The Catherine Deneuve of pumpkins?

This photo of Musquee de Provence was snapped by our friend Rob, a garden blogger and innkeeper in the Dordogne region of France. Musquee was sliced in thin wedges and sold as a raw snack at Rob’s local street market in Sarlat, France.

Easiest pumpkin seeds to eat

pumpkin kakaiRoasting pumpkin seeds is a post-Halloween tradition in many families. Now you can roast seeds that are one step easier to eat. Two pumpkins obligingly produce HULL-LESS seeds. The tastiest of the “naked” seeds come from Lady Godiva. Another source of such seeds is Kakai. Both pumpkins sport dramatic stripes too, so use them as decorations before you dig into the seeds. Lady Godiva and Kakai are new here for the 2014 Seed Collection and will be available on November 15, 2013.

The best pie pumpkin isn’t a pumpkin after all

small sugar pumpkinMany pumpkins make good pies, and we’ll tell you about those in a minute, but the classic pie is made with Dickinson, a winter squash. Dickinson is in those cans in the grocery store. Butternut is another winter squash that makes an excellent “pumpkin” pie.

Pumpkins to grow for pies are Big Max, Casper, Cinderella, Musquee de Provence, and Small Sugar

Really, Dickinson and Butternut are not such odd choices, since they are of the Cucurbita moschata species, like so many pumpkins.

The botanical Latin names are actually quite important in your garden, to keep your pumpkins growing true and not cross-pollinating. No, pumpkins can’t read their Latin names, but they do know who’s ready to cross-pollinate, and you need to keep those flirtatious kinds of pumpkins apart. Or else.

Pumpkin species

pumpkin cross pollination

Our chart has marks to show you which pumpkins will cross-pollinate with each other. Don’t plant these species in the same season if you want to save seeds and have them “grow true” in the future.

Cross-pollination is only a problem if you will be saving the seeds from your garden.

ALL pumpkins are in the genus Cucurbita. Within the genus are four species of pumpkins.

Typically, you only have to worry about cross-pollination WITHIN the same species, but there are some exceptions. That’s why we made the chart, so you’d have an easy way to check on cross-pollination. Just look up the species name (on the seed pack) of any pumpkins you’re wanting to plant together, to see if you might get some accidental crosses out there in the garden patch.

Here are pumpkins by species:

Jack Be Little
Lady Godiva
Small Sugar

Musquee de Provence

Big Max

(We don’t have any of these right now.)

Hugely important tips for growing giant pumpkins

Pumpkin Kings

Do you want to play in the big leagues?

The Pumpkin Kings (growers of giant pumpkins) visited our nursery and shared some of their secrets for getting the most out of a pumpkin seed. Grab some Big Max seeds to grow your own 100-pound pumpkin.

White-as-a-ghost pumpkins

If you’re loving the white pumpkin look, get spooky with our 10-20 pound Casper (good eating too).

casper pumpkin

Pick out some seeds from the wide range in our organic pumpkin patch.

Choose from all pumpkins great and small (or white and orange) and grow some next summer in your garden.

  Comments (4)


Had a great crop of hulless seed pumpkins this year. I got the best flavor out of the flesh by slicing it thin and drying in a dehydrator.

Posted by Hans Quistorff on Nov. 01, 2013 at 9:34:08 PM


I’ve been wary of trying to save pumpkin seeds because I thought they cross pollinated throughout the cucurbit family. This year I grew sm. sugar pumpkins, delicata squash, butternut squash, lemon cucumbers and pickle cucumbers. Would it be safe to save the pumpkin seed?

Posted by Linda Dinnocenzo on Nov. 02, 2013 at 7:32:34 AM

Hans, Thanks for the drying tip!

Posted by on Nov. 04, 2013 at 2:00:52 PM

Linda, Iowa State reassures us that pumpkins will not cross-pollinate with cucumbers, since they are different species Those pumpkins and winter squashes you grew are ALL Cucurbita pepo, the same species, so they could have easily cross-pollinated.

Posted by on Nov. 04, 2013 at 2:11:50 PM

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