Ten of the best pumpkins to grow for eating including the type used to make Libby’s pumpkin puree. Also, tips on the best eating pumpkins to grow in cooler climates and small gardens.
There’s a pumpkin for every garden but not all of them are for eating. As anyone who has cooked up a standard supermarket type knows, some of them can be watery, stringy, and flavorless. Choose the wrong type for your garden and you could be just as disappointed. That’s why choosing the best pumpkins for your needs is so important, and I’m here to help.
There are two main things to think about when choosing pumpkin varieties. If you’re planning on growing pumpkins for the table, choose a variety that’s known for good taste and texture and types that will grow well in your climate and garden size. Here are ten of the best pumpkins to grow for eating whether you have a small garden in the USA or a large one in Britain.
The Most Popular Eating Pumpkin in North America
There’s one eating pumpkin that has worldwide renown. Libby’s, the American company famous for pumpkin purée, breeds its own variety of pumpkin called the ‘Select Dickinson’. Libby’s has full rights to the variety, and it’s not possible to get seeds. However, there are similar pumpkin types that you can grow at home. Just don’t expect the ‘Dickinson Pumpkin’ to look like a Halloween pumpkin. It more closely resembles a butternut squash, just as the Select Dickinson does. So if you’re a big fan of traditional American pumpkin pies, then the best pumpkins for you could be squash-like!
Other delicious pumpkin varieties that you can get include Pink Porcelain Doll Pumpkin, Rouge Vif D’ Etampes, and Jarrahdale Blue Pumpkin. There are a lot of good seed producers in North America but those who specialize in organic, open-pollinated heritage varieties are best. Try Johnnys and Baker Creek for good selections.
Best Pumpkins for Eating in Britain
Choosing the best pumpkins to grow in the garden can be difficult and more than a little overwhelming. There are dozens of varieties on the market and if you don’t do your research you could end up with a type that doesn’t suit your needs. This couldn’t be more true for short-summered Britain. Fortunately, Sarah Raven conducted a test some years back and shared the results online.
Of the fourteen varieties grown, Squash ‘Zucca da Marmellata‘ was the favorite for flavor and grew well in the British climate. Other varieties that taste great and grow well in Britain include Queensland Blue, Uchiki Kuri, Rouge Vif D’ Etampes, and the sweet, thin-skinned Musquee de Provence. One of the best places to get pumpkin and squash seeds for the British climate is the Real Seed Catalogue.
The Best Pumpkins for Small Gardens
Pumpkins are notorious for taking up space in the garden. If you turn your back on them, their vines will grow as quickly as Cinderella’s pumpkin transforming into a carriage. Many varieties will do well in small spaces though, including large pots and containers. If you’re short of floor space, you can also grow them vertically up trellises and over wigwams.
For small gardens try growing the ‘Burgess Vine Buttercup‘. It produces small dark-green squash but doesn’t take up as much space as other varieties. ‘Jack be Little‘ is another petite pumpkin variety, as is the Japanese ‘Kabotcha‘ pumpkin.
Pumpkin Growing Tips
Living in a cool, wet, climate has generally put a dampener on my own pumpkin harvests. This year was different. I chose varieties that suited my climate, sowed the seeds in the house in mid-spring, and after I planted them out, I protected them with fleece until mid-summer. I’m happy to say that choosing varieties wisely, and protecting the plants early, led to a bumper year of ‘Baked Potato‘, ‘Kabotcha’, and ‘Uchicki Kuri’ squash.
For even more pumpkin and squash growing tips read this piece by my pumpkin hoarding pal Rachel. Practically all she grows is squash, and she knows a thing or two about getting huge harvests for the least amount of effort.
Support your local Farmers Market
It could be that you have an apartment or no garden space at all and growing your own pumpkins is a dream…for now. Until you have a little space, rest assured that the pumpkins from your local farmer’s market will be selected for flavor. They will be the best pumpkins you can get in your region. You can also satisfy your love of cooking and eating pumpkins with a gorgeous pumpkin pot like this one I spotted in Paris. You could use it to cook up creamy pumpkin soup with roasted pumpkin seeds.