Best Pumpkin Varieties

By Tabitha Alterman Created: October 25, 2012 Last Updated: October 25, 2012
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Whether steamed, grilled or baked, pumpkins and winter squash offer color, flavor, and nutrition to your meal. (Matt Norris/

Whether steamed, grilled or baked, pumpkins and winter squash offer color, flavor, and nutrition to your meal. (Matt Norris/

Rambunctious, rambling pumpkin and squash vines are almost as uncontrollable as our desire to consume their fruits once fall colors start to show. This enthusiasm spills over into the kitchen, where pumpkins and squash (including acorns, butternuts, bananas, buttercups, turbans, and Hubbards) can hardly be contained. 

Pumpkins are delicious served plain—grilled, steamed, baked, boiled, or roasted whole in hot embers (an old-school way to prepare the humble pumpkin that works just as well today). Native Americans used pumpkins and squash in everything from breads to soups.

However you cook them, pumpkins and winter squash offer a boatload of color, flavor, and nutrition. 

The specific nutrient profile depends on the variety (of which there are many), but these members of the cucurbit family generally are a good source of dietary fiber, vitamin A, vitamin C, riboflavin, potassium, copper, manganese, vitamin E, thiamin, niacin, vitamin B6, folate, iron, calcium, magnesium and phosphorus. Meanwhile, they’re low in fat and calories.

The seeds and seed oils from pumpkins and squash are good for you, too. The seeds are loaded with protein and fiber, and make a crunchy, delicious snack or salad topping. 

The oil from certain pumpkin seeds, most notably from the Styrian Hulless pumpkin of Austria, is incredibly dark, rich, and flavorful and is full of heart-healthy fats.

You’ll have the best luck finding tasty pumpkin varieties and delectable winter squash by growing your own or shopping at farmers markets in late summer and fall. Be sure to stock up when you spot good prices, because most varieties are excellent keepers. 

There are tons of choices, from three species. After trialing dozens of varieties for her book, “The Compleat Squash,” Amy Goldman reports that the following heirloom varieties provide especially rich, sweet, and tender meat with excellent cooking qualities.

Here are just a few varieties to check out.


  1. Blue Banana 
  2. Buttercup 
  3. Crown 
  4. Gill’s Blue Hubbard 
  5. Gold Nugget


  1. Gill’s Golden Pippin
  2. Sugar Loaf 
  3. Sweet Dumpling


  1. Styrian Hulless
  2. Kumi Kumi
  3. Winter Luxury Pie

Excerpted from MOTHER EARTH NEWS, the Original Guide to Living Wisely. To read more articles from MOTHER EARTH NEWS, please visit or call (800) 234-3368 to subscribe. Copyright 2012 by Ogden Publications Inc. 

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Martha Rosenberg