Grow These Heirloom Pumpkin Varieties

There are lots of wonderful heirloom pumpkin varieties that are superior in flavor and appearance to the same old orange globes found everywhere in the fall: It’s a shame we don’t see more of them. All three will forever change your perception of pumpkins.

  • Heirloom pumpkin varieties from left to right: 'Iranian', 'Marina di Chioggia’ and
    Heirloom pumpkin varieties from left to right: 'Iranian', 'Marina di Chioggia’ and "Galeux D'Eysines.'
    Photo by Rob Cardillo

  • Heirloom pumpkin varieties from left to right: 'Iranian', 'Marina di Chioggia’ and

Grow and cook with these heirloom pumpkin varieties and enjoy their unique look and superior flavor. Here are a few varieties for gardeners with enough room for long, trailing vines. One is French, one is Italian, and one is Iranian.

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Grow These Heirloom Pumpkin Varieties

Each fall I get a sinking feeling when I drive past farm stands loaded with acres of orange field pumpkins. Yes, they’re fun for Halloween, but their bland flavor has given pumpkins a bad rap. And anyway, why are we encouraging a mono-culture devoted to the sort of pumpkins that are best sold in cans? There are lots of other wonderful culinary pumpkins with high decorative value: It’s a shame we don’t see more of them in our markets. Here is a trilogy of heirloom varieties I highly recommend for gardeners with room for long trailing vines. One is French, one is Italian and one is from Iran.

All three varieties belong to the species Cucurbita maxima, which means two things: the fruits and vines are large, and if you plant them together, they’ll cross and you won’t want to save their seed. In flavor and culinary value, these three are definite winners and even if I don’t always grow them myself, I make an annual beeline to the farmers who do.

Galeux d’Eysines Pumpkin

Of the three, this French heirloom variety is quite an eye-popper! The pumpkins are flat and squat, and the hard skin of the mature fruit is salmon-pink and covered with warts resembling peanut shells. These bumps are sometimes called “sugar warts,” because they’re caused by a buildup of sugars under the skin. It takes its name from Eysines, the place in France where it originated in the 19th century. In France the ‘Galeux d’Eysines’ is mostly used for soups, sauces and preserves such as pumpkin butter because the texture of the cooked fruit is very smooth. A pumpkin’s flavor is most concentrated just under its skin and in the seed mass; boil the flesh (minus the skin) and the seed mass (minus the seeds) when making a soup stock and you’ll really taste the difference. The orange flesh is fragrant and quite sweet with a hint of sweet potato and apple. Each pumpkin weighs about 10 to 15 pounds and if picked before frost, it will store for up to six months.

Marina di Chioggia, or Chioggia Sea Pumpkin

The history of this pumpkin is well-documented thanks to the research of professor Herwig Teffner of the University of Graz in Austria. According to Teffner, this pumpkin evolved around Venice in the latter part of the 1600s. It takes its name from the fishing village of Chioggia, which became a major source of produce for Venetians once the salt marshes nearby were drained and cultivated.

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