Take one trip to any grocery store around town and you'll quickly realize that pumpkin season has arrived. But, there's more types of pumpkins than just the bright orange round ones you carve into Jack-O-Lanterns and set outside on Halloween night. Pumpkins come in a variety of shapes, sizes and colors; and just because one is good for cooking, doesn't mean another can be used in the same exact way.
It's always fun to take the family out to a nearby pumpkin patch to sit on gourds, snap some photos and take a few home with you to carve and possibly eat. But, if you're just looking for a quick place to buy pumpkins without it being an all-day ordeal, then stop by any Whole Foods Market in the city. This year, the specialty grocery store offers nearly 27 different pumpkin and gourd varietals -- all of the pumpkins are local and edible. To help you decide which one is right for you, we have broken down the list of available pumpkins at Whole Foods Markets in Houston into two categories: best for carving/decorating, and best for baking/cooking.
Best Pumpkins for Carving and Decorating Obviously, the classic Jack-o-Lantern pumpkin (or carving pumpkin) is your go-to when you want to carve a face or artsy design into the exterior shell. The flesh is definitely not tasty, but the seeds certainly are. As you're discarding the inner portion of the pumpkin, save the seeds, then soak them in salt water overnight, drain and toast in the oven to toss over a salad or eat as a snack.
If you're looking for a much larger pumpkin to carve, opt for the Big Mac. Each weighs anywhere from 50 pounds to 250 pounds. Of course, you could just paint one of them if carving is too tedious of a task. But, seriously, these gorgeous gourds are excellent decorations for your front porch or patio.
It's much easier to paint the Ghost White pumpkins because the canvas is essentially white. The stark contrast of a bright orange flesh to the creamy white exterior is also a beautiful sight to see. Another off-white pumpkin perfect for jack-o-lanterns or decorating your yard is the New Moon pumpkin so named for its "lunar" or orbital shape.
Whole Foods also carries Mini White pumpkins perfect for smaller crafts or table decorations. Make a gorgeous centerpiece with the Mini Tiger pumpkins and Mini Orange varietals. The tiger pumpkins feature green and orange stripes against an off-white base; and, of course, the miniature orange pumpkins are small bright orange versions of the classic pumpkin.
Wolf pumpkins are similar to the classic carving pumpkins, but these orange gourds feature a much thicker stem and exterior; you can definitely carve a Wolf pumpkin, but it might take a little more elbow grease to carve a face or shape.
Best Pumpkins for Cooking & Baking Some of the pumpkins you can paint, carve or decorate are also excellent ingredients to cook with. We already mentioned that you can toast the pumpkin seeds from a carving pumpkin after you scoop out the flesh. You can also cook with the miniature orange and tiger pumpkins. Bake whole mini orange pumpkins for a squash-like side dish, and use the mini tiger pumpkins in recipes that call for the use of fresh pumpkin, such as in a pie.
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But, if you really want sweet pumpkin flesh to use in your Thanksgiving pie, opt for the Sugar Pie pumpkins. These typically have the most sugar in the flesh, providing an excellent filling in a dessert, such as pumpkin pie.
Many people love the beautiful shape of the Cinderella pumpkin as it is reminiscent of the carriage Cinderella rode in to the ball. The sweet flesh has been described as having a custard-like texture.
For something less sweet, try cooking the flesh of a Jarrahdale pumpkin. Unlike most orange-colored pumpkins, the Jarrahdale is green/grey in color and has a golden yellow solid flesh that can be cooked just as a winter squash, such as butternut or acorn.
You can also cook with the thick orange flesh of a Rascal pumpkin; the exterior is slightly pink in comparison to other standard orange pumpkins.