14 Unusual Pumpkins For Fall Decorating (And Eating, Too)

Welcome the season with these unusual varieties of pumpkins and gourds.

October 11, 2016
pumpkin varieties

Nothing says “Autumn Bounty” quite as charmingly as some bright and cheerful pumpkins and gourds. Stop by your local farmers' market, roadside stand, or grocery store and check out the amazing range of options available. We’ve listed just a few of our favorites that you may want to look for. 

(Whether you're starting your first garden or switching to organic, Rodale’s Basic Organic Gardening has all the answers and advice you need—get your copy today!)

moonshine pumpkin
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Who says pumpkins have to be orange? White pumpkins show up well outdoors at night, making the mid-sized Moonshine pumpkin perfect for painting or displaying as-is. Also look for tiny white pumpkins such as Snowball or the giant white Polar Bear pumpkin, which can be as large as 65 pounds.

Related: How To Monogram Your Pumpkins

long island cheese pumpkin
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Also known as the Musque de Provence, this French heirloom is straight out of Grimm’s illustrations. The squat, deeply grooved fruit run 8-15 pounds and will keep for many months at room temperature. These pumpkins have deep orange, moderately sweet flesh. Also look for Long Island Cheese, which is less deeply creased and slightly smaller, and a mini version called Autumn Crown that runs just a few pounds.

green goblin pumpkin
Green Goblin

This Italian heirloom (also known as Marina di Chioggia) can grow up to 10 pounds. Its knobby green skin hides rich, sweet, yellow-orange flesh that is perfect for pies when you get tired of looking at it. A similar option is Black Futsu, an equally knobby but slightly smaller, black-green heirloom pumpkin from Japan that slowly turns gold after harvest. Black Futsu features firm flesh with a flavor reminiscent of chestnuts or hazelnuts.

cinderella pumpkin
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I challenge you to look at this French heirloom without imagining tiny carriage wheels and a fairy godmother. This deep scarlet-orange pumpkin, which is also called Rouge Vif d’Etampes, runs 10-15 pounds and its dense, moderately sweet flesh makes great pie. Also look for a similarly shaped pure white version called Valenciano, a slate blue/dark green variety called Jarrahdale, and, if you're really lucky, Bliss, a dark green variety with golden speckles and spots.

Related: DIY Pumpkin Centerpieces

kakai pumpkins

These orange and green striped pumpkins run 5-8 pounds and are quite visually striking. But their really unusual feature is inside: Their seeds have no hard shell, making them perfect for eating raw right out of the fruit or for roasting and cooking. Also look for Lady Godiva, a similar variety that also features “naked” seeds.

peanut pumpkin
Galeux D' Eysines

These slightly creepy looking salmon-colored (10-15 pounds) pumpkins are generously sprinkled with large warts! Also look for the lightly warted, solid-orange Knuckle Head; the dark orange and completely warted Victor aka Red Warty Thing; and Musquee de Maroc, a mottled orange-green pumpkin with vertical rows of vivid green warts.

Related: How To Roast Pumpkin Seeds, Plus 5 Delicious Recipes

green striped cushaw squash
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Green Striped Cushaw

This classic green and white neck pumpkin runs 5-15 pounds and offers a unique shape. It turns into a very tasty standard dark orange pumpkin pie filling when cooked. Also look for Autumn Colors Cushaw, which sports a golden-yellow top, green bottom, and classic white stripes, and the rare but delightful pure White Cushaw.

Pennsylvania Dutch Crookneck squash
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Pennsylvania Dutch Crookneck

Looking for all the world like a Butternut squash on steroids, this strangely contorted Amish heirloom can weigh as much as 20 pounds. When the time comes to cook it, you will be delighted to find the long neck is solid flesh: the seeds are only found in the enlarged tip.

shamrock pumpkin

These unusual, convoluted, blue-green pumpkins weigh 8-12 pounds. They hail from Australia, and make a stunningly different addition to your fall decorations. Also known as Triamble, the fruits last a long time at room temperature—after months of admiring your Shamrock, you can turn it into pie or soup. 

Related: 5 Genius No-Mess Pumpkin Projects

hooligan pumpkins
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No room for a full-size pumpkin? Try this lovely little mini pumpkin. Also look for Casperita, a pure white mini variety; Autumn Crown, a flattened tan-colored mini pumpkin; Munchkin, a classic orange mini pumpkin variety; and Sweet Dumpling, a white mini variety with green stripes. These mini pumpkins make delightful tealight holders. Or, bake them up—they're just as tasty as acorn squash.

turks tuban squash
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Turks Turban

This classic French heirloom is often called a gourd, but it's actually a delicious nutty-flavored pumpkin. Turks Turban, a.k.a. Turks Cap, can be stuffed and baked whole, making a great vegetarian/vegan alternative for a festive main dish with the right stuffing.

Related: The Most Beautiful Winter Squashes You Can Eat

swan gourd
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Speckled Swan Gourd

These unique, birdlike gourds are worth seeking out. Like all gourds, Speckled Swan doesn't contain edible flesh when ripe, but with a little care, you can cure the hard shell and keep it for many seasons. Look for Bottle or Birdhouse gourds, which have a similar shape but are white or pale green.

snake gourds
Snake Gourd

Depending on how they were grown, these striking gourds can resemble caveman clubs or sinuous coiled serpents. Immature fruit up to about 2 feet long can be eaten like summer squash (if you can pierce the skin with your fingernail, it's likely tender enough to eat). As Snake Gourds ripen, their flesh disappears, leaving behind only seeds and a hard shell. Also look for Dipper gourds, which look similar but have a rounded bulge at the tip.

Related: How To Pick Perfect Pumpkins + Squash

variety of winged gourds
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Winged Gourd

Available in just about any shape and color scheme you can imagine—and a few out of your worst nightmares—winged gourds are uniquely fascinating. Like all gourds, they contain no edible flesh when they're ripe, but with a little care, you can cure the hard shell and keep it for many seasons. Also look for Caveman’s Club gourd, a solid green winged gourd up to 18 inches long that's covered with odd raised scars and spikes. Spooky!