How to Identify & Choose the Right Pumpkin or Winter Squash - gardenstead Skip to content

How to Identify & Choose the Right Pumpkin or Winter Squash

Pumpkin season is upon us. Now is the time to harvest and enjoy pumpkins and winter squash, but can you identify the different varieties? Here’s our fall guide to choosing the right pumpkin or squash for your next autumn inspired meal.

Photo courtesy of Earthbound Farm

I love pumpkin season. It isn’t fall or autumn to me. It is simply pumpkin season, and it is finally here. Did you grow pumpkins or winter squash this year? Are you planning on taking the children to a local farm to pick out pumpkins, or are you simply in the grocery store looking at a squash wondering what kind it is? If you’re looking for answers on how to identify and choose the right winter squash or pumpkin, you’ve come to the right spot. Here you’ll learn how to identify the different varieties and choose the right ones for your next autumn dinner.

Some of the most popular, and more easily identifiable, winter squash include field pumpkins, sugar pumpkins, acorn and butternut squash. You’ll likely find spaghetti squash and even buttercup squash at your local grocery store as well, but there are some other amazing varieties you really should try if you have the opportunity. Red kuri, delicata and blue hubbard are a few of my favorites. Make a mental note of the winter squash you’d like to try and keep this list bookmarked so you can come back to it the next time you’re picking out winter squash.

Here are a few of my favorites that you are likely to find. Make sure when choosing any of these, that you pick ones that are blemish free, have a stem and feel heavy for their size.

Types of Pumpkins

Field Pumpkins

Connecticut field pumpkins are the traditional big American pumpkins sought after for Halloween decorations, but did you know that they are edible too? Try roasting the seeds, they are delicious. I always save the seeds when we carve our jack-o-lantern and roast them right away. Nothing says fall like fresh roasted pumpkin seeds.

Photo by Like Southern via Unsplash
Sugar pumpkins

While many people think pumpkin pies are made from field pumpkins, and they can be, most pumpkin pies are actually made with sugar pumpkins. These much smaller pumpkins are less stringy and sweeter. Their skin is softer, which makes it easier to cut as well. Look for round pumpkins that have a dark orange color, are about 10 inches (25 cm) and weigh no more than 10 pounds.

Acorn squash

These are a fall dinner must. I can just picture pulling roasted acorn squash out of the oven on a chilly fall day. These tasty treats will warm you up for sure. Look for ones that have a light green color and little to no orange. The orange color signifies that the acorn squash has become tougher and stringier.

Photo by Kim Daniels via Unsplash
Jack be little

These tiny pumpkins are absolutely adorable. They are perfect for little hands to gather and decorate with. They are edible, but at an average of 3 inches (7.62 cm) across and 2 inches (5 cm) wide, there isn’t much to work with. I love growing them though and seeing our childrens’ faces light up when they get to pick them. Make sure to plant some seeds this year or pick some up at the grocery store.

Photo by Viviana Rishe via Unsplash
Butternut squash

Another popular winter squash generally available at most grocery stores, butternut squash is fantastic in soups and pasta dishes. They are a light yellow to tan color and have a bell like shape. They can be hard to cut (I usually have my husband cut it). A trick to make it easier to cut is to put a few slits into the squash and then heat it in the microwave for 3-5 minutes.

Sweet Dumpling squash

Sweet dumpling squash is a small winter squash, only about 3”-5” (7.62cm- 12.7cm) wide. It is beautiful, with cream and green color or light yellow and orange, both with speckles. They have a nutty flavor and are perfect stuffed or made into a soup.

Photo by Aaron Burden via Unsplash
Kabocha squash

This is a winter squash you aren’t likely to find in a grocery store, but perhaps at a farm or fall market. It’s also a great one to grow as it only takes about 50-55 days to harvest after fruit set. This Japanese pumpkin is a little shorter and fatter than a sugar pumpkin. I like to make squash fritters with them or use them in a saute.

Photo via Johnnyseeds
Blue Hubbard squash

This is a huge squash that is very difficult to cut. Luckily, grocery stores often sell them already cut into pieces. You’ll want to choose one that has a dull finish rather than a shiny one. It’s delicious roasted or mashed. They are so large that you will have leftovers for days if you don’t share. Save this one for a large gathering or send some to a neighbor.

Photo by Meredith via allrecipes
Photo by Blair Fraser via Unsplash
Kuri squash

Kuri squash, the dark orange teardrop (or onion shaped in my opinion) squash in the center of this picture has a wonderful nutty flavor. It is fantastic in soup but can also be used in side dishes and pies. While most winter squash and pumpkins have extremely hard skins that aren’t eaten, you can eat the outside of the Kuri squash once it is cooked. Choose one that is heavy for its size that has even coloring and no bruises.

Delicata squash

The delicata squash is a unique squash that is yellow with green stripes. As its name might allude to, it has light delicate skin that you can eat. You don’t even need to cook it first. If you do choose to cook it, buy one that doesn’t have any bruises and is uniform in size for even cooking. This can be a very tasty alternative to acorn squash.

Photo via Cooks Unlimited

These are 10 of my favorite pumpkins and winter squashes that you should be able to find or grow. There are thousands of varieties however. Which are your favorite ones? Share in the comments below and follow us on Instagram and Facebook for more fall inspiration.

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