The word “pumpkin” usually brings to mind the vibrant orange that symbolizes all things related to autumn. Varying from deep, robust orange to a light, bright hue, pumpkins are the hit of the fall season.
But did you know the king of jack-o-lanterns comes in many colors besides orange? Pumpkin varieties have expanded to include shades of red, pink, green, tan, white, and blue to please the palates of those looking for something unique or fun.
Color Me Healthy! Why Pumpkins Are Orange (or Not)
Most pumpkins are orange because of the high amounts of lutein, alpha- and beta- carotene. But don’t assume the absence of orange in the skin means the absence of one or more of these substances – almost all pumpkins have some variation of orange flesh which is rich in Vitamin A and lots of other vitamins, minerals, and heart-healthy antioxidants.
A Star is Born! Creating Designer Pumpkins
Pumpkins mate in a way that can result in interesting colors and shapes. A lot of plants have male and female varieties, but the pumpkin and other squashes feature both sexes on the same vine.
The male flowers appear first and attract the bees. After they die off, the female flowers appear and the bees return to pollinate them with the male pollen.
Cross-pollination is very likely between the different varieties of plants, resulting in hybrid pumpkins. For example, the Jarrahdale blue pumpkin is a cross between the Blue Hubbard squash and the huge red Cinderella pumpkin.
Pumpkins Wear White After Labor Day
Coming on the scene only a dozen years ago, naturally white pumpkins, once an oddity found only at farmers’ markets, are now making their way into more and more homes and are becoming an autumn favorite.
A bit more expensive than their traditional orange counterparts, white pumpkins appeal to both old and young for many different reasons.
Some see their white skin as a fresh canvas perfect for drawing or painting upon. Others seek out the white pumpkins because they seem more eerie-looking because while the skin is white, the flesh is pale yellow, resulting in a ghoulish glow when carved and lit from within.
And while many might not think of using such rare beauty in a pie, gourmets and grandmas alike know that white pumpkins are great in pies, soups, and other pumpkin recipes.
The smallest white pumpkin is the tiny, 3″ Baby Boo. The larger carving pumpkins are the Lumina, the Casper (probably named after the friendly ghost of cartoon fame) and the White Ghost or Valenciano pumpkin. All are between 10-20 lbs. and offer an spooky, white skin and delicious flesh for cooking. The largest white pumpkin, the Full Moon pumpkin, weighs in at close to 80 lbs. and is great for those who want an impressive jack-o-lantern to stand sentinel on their porch.
The Cotton Candy is one of the best white varieties from an appearance standpoint, not only for excellent color, but also for its perfect classic pumpkin shape, strong handle, and only slightly ribbed skin. This variety is primarily grown as ornamental.
Decorators love white pumpkins, as well, because white is crisp, clean, and classic in any decor. The Luminas can be arranged with mums or Baby Boos hollowed out to serve as candleholders. Display white pumpkins with other unusual pumpkins or with gourds for a striking display. They are elegant atop sterling silver or can serve as a chic vase for a fall floral arrangement.
Any way you display them, these ivory beauties are a must for your seasonal centerpiece or decoration.
Keep in mind, all of the white pumpkins need to be kept in the shade to retain their gorgeous, ghostly white hue. Sunlight can turn them to a light yellow with time.
Blue Pumpkins: Not-so Little Boy Blue Anymore
Blue pumpkins are very striking, unusual, and get noticed. Of all the non-traditional colors for pumpkins, blue seems to be the most unexpected.
Blue pumpkins are gorgeous when mixed with their complementary orange cousins or in a patriotic display when mixed with red and white pumpkins. These rare, eye-catching pumpkins are also delicious for cooking and will be the talk of the neighborhood whether as a decoration or baked good.
The most well-known blue boy is the Australian Blue, or Jarrahdale. This is a medium sized, deeply ribbed heirloom pumpkin in a pleasing light blue or gray color. This crossbred child has some qualities of its Blue Hubbard squash and Cinderella pumpkin parents. The flesh is mild and sweet like the Blue Hubbard while the flattened shape is a trait from the Cinderella.
The Japanese Kakai pumpkin is beginning to make a ruckus on the import scene with its blue-gray skin highlighted with orange stripes. The Kakai boasts blue seeds rich in good fats and proteins, making it a delicious, healthy snack, as well as a unique centerpiece.
Finally, the Blue Lakota is an heirloom variety from the American Midwest. The deep blue-gray color, slight ribs, and pear shape make it a fun pumpkin to display with its bright orange cousins.
Red Pumpkins: Blushing Beauties of the Patch
The idea of a red pumpkin isn’t quite as shocking as a blue or white variety, but the vibrant, sunset hues and interesting shapes make the red varieties just as sought after.
Ranging from medium-sized to very large, the unique textures, shapes, and colors are tops for decorating, while the sweet flesh is desirable for cooking.
One of the most famous red pumpkins is featured in a well-known fairy tale. It is said that Cinderella’s carriage was fashioned after the Rouge Vif d’Estampes pumpkin, an heirloom from France that was introduced into the US in the late 1800s.
This impressive variety of pumpkin ranges in color from red to pink to a deep red-orange with deep ribs. The flattened shape allows for stacking other colorful pumpkins on top of them, creating a lovely display.
A fun red heirloom comes from the American Midwest and is called the Red Lakota. These pear-shaped pumpkins are red with green and/or black markings that extend upward from the base. They make for a delightful display on your front porch when mixed with their Blue Lakota cousins.
The Red Warty is crossbreed with a Red Hubbard squash and is more squash than pumpkin. This gorgeous red squash has vibrant red skin with a lumpy texture covering the exterior. When displayed with the smooth Lumina or a group of deeply ribbed orange pumpkins, the texture of the Red Warty gives an added and unexpected dimension to the grouping.
Just don’t expect to make a jack-o-lantern out of this variety. The sweet flesh makes good eating, but the bumpy exterior makes tough carving.
Stripes and Texture Galore!
Perhaps you’re one who likes a hint of the traditional along with a sensory thrill. If so, then a striped or textured pumpkin may be the way to go.
The Tonda Padana pumpkin is one that is sure to please with its striped skin and delicious flesh. This Italian pumpkin is basically orange, but has vertical stripes varying from green to gray-green along the ribbing.
It will make a graceful centerpiece for your table or a delicious meal to serve guests.
The Styrian Hulless is another gorgeous striped pumpkin with a bonus. This Austrian heirloom has hulless seeds that are perfect for roasting or eating raw. The flesh can be used in soups or you can simply enjoy the gold and green striped skin as a visual feast.
There are many other striped pumpkins, especially in the smaller sizes. The Pump Ke and the Tiger Tiger are both miniature pumpkins with color variations.
The Pump Ke Mon has a base color of white or yellow, with darker yellow or green splotches and stripes on the skin. The Tiger Tiger miniature pumpkin is yellow with a mottled orange coloring.
If texture as well as color gets your senses salivating, try the Brode Galeux d’Eysines, another heirloom from France. This bright salmon-pink pumpkin has a pebbled texture that is a delight for your table, both as a centerpiece and as a main course.
This medium-sized pumpkin makes a great conversation starter and mixes well in a display with other colored pumpkins.
Photo Cluster: Brode Galeux di Eysines-Underwood Gardens, Tonda Padana-Underwood Gardens, & Styrian Hulless-Underwood Gardens.
Processed Pumpkins: Not Your Garden Variety
You probably think pumpkin pie comes from the orange pumpkin grown in your neighborhood patch. Think again! Canned pumpkin comes from pumpkins that are grown solely for the purpose of processing. They are tan and slightly oblong in shape, more like a squash than a happy Halloween jack-o-lantern shape. Common varieties include the Chelsey, Buckskin, Dickinson Field, and Kentucky Field.
Give the Pumpkin Color Wheel a Spin
With such a rich and varied color palette beyond the beloved traditional orange, pumpkins are ideal for your autumn decor. Whether you choose white, blue, red, or striped, you can be sure these unique pumpkins will command attention, bringing a sense of wonder and fun to the season.