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(Host) This year commentator Charlie Nardozzi says why not get creative with some of the more unusual pumpkin varieties.

(Nardozzi) Say pumpkins and most people envision a round orange vegetable growing in a field or carved for Halloween. But there’s more to pumpkins than you think. By searching in the squash family for some heirlooms and modern hybrids, you’ll find pumpkins of various colors and shapes that may surprise you.

Most gardeners have heard of the Connecticut Field’ pumpkin or Small Sugar’ pumpkin. These are favorite varieties for pie making and carving. But I’m never satisfied with the ordinary. Ever since my daughter Elena was little, I’ve grown pumpkins for another use – their edible seeds. Now you might say all pumpkins have edible seeds. And you re right. But certain pumpkins have naked seeds. Better known as hulless, these varieties have thin hulled seeds that when roasted in the oven, pop, not unlike popcorn. I have fond memories of roasting up a batch of seeds with my daughter. After a chilly afternoon of hollowing out pumpkins, we’d often throw pumpkin guts at each other and finally separate the seeds from the flesh. With a little salt, these roasted, hulless pumpkin seeds have a nutty flavor and are high in nutrition too. A new variety to look for is called Snack Jack’. It was specially bred just to produce an abundance of naked seeds.

Another trait to look for is unusual skin color. Many old and new varieties of pumpkins feature red, white, or even green colored skin. Varieties such as Lumina’ and Baby Boo’ have a pure white skin color that stirs the creative juices of pumpkin carvers and decorators. Rouge Vif Detamps’ is a French heirloom, red pumpkin also known as the Cinderella pumpkin. It really does look like the pumpkin from the Disney classic. It’s flat on top and deeply ribbed. It brings an old world look to our new world festival of Halloween. A similar looking green-skinned version is Jardale’. This Australian heirloom combines an unusual skin color with tender flesh. Imagine what your kids could create decorating a green pumpkin!

Speaking of decorating pumpkins. I’m all for using unusual shaped and skinned pumpkins for painting and decorating instead of carving. I’ve never been comfortable with young kids wielding knives to carve pumpkins. A good example of what kids can create by painting and decorating pumpkins is at the Vermont Botanical Garden’s annual Pumpkin Festival held each October. We let kids adorn their own pumpkins and we give out prizes for the most creative ones. The kids go wild. They use grasses, weeds, flowers, feathers, hair, paper, markers, paints and almost anything they can find to dress up these squash. With background colors of red, white, and green, the possibilities are endless.

So when you see those piles of orange globes in the market stop and take a closer look. You might just find some unusual varieties that will make your Halloween season a little more spectacular.

This is Charlie Nardozzi in Shelburne.

Related link:
Vermont Community Botanical Garden

Charlie Nardozzi is an all-around gardening expert with a special fondness for tomatoes and roses.

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