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What's in Season

What's in Season

What's in Season: Pumpkins

by The Paula Deen Test Kitchen

Nothing says, “It’s fall, y’all,” quite like our favorite orange gourd, the pumpkin! Pumpkins are the symbol that soon leaves will be falling and a signal for most turkeys to run for the hills, as they’ll soon find themselves on your finest holiday china. Yearly, pumpkins adorn our porch steps, table centerpieces and treasured recipes, but have you ever taken a step back to truly appreciate the pumpkin?

This fall, whether you’re carving a whimsical Jack o’ Lantern or whipping up your grandmother’s pumpkin and nutmeg pie, give a moment to think about this seasonal squash.

The earliest pumpkin seeds were found in Mexico and date back to 5500 B.C., meaning that they are native to North America. However, there is some speculation that pumpkins originated in Asia and were introduced to North America in prehistoric times.

By definition, the pumpkin is a fruit and belongs to the gourd family. The word pumpkin is derived from the Greek pepon, meaning “large melon”. Pumpkins range in colors, varying from oranges, to reds, and yellows.

Did you know that carving pumpkins was originally an Irish tradition? Jack O’ Lanterns are based on the tale of Stingy Jack, in which he is doomed to spend the rest of eternity roaming the night with nothing but a carved out turnip and a single coal for light.

Nutritional Information:
Pumpkins are considered to be a good source of vitamins A and C, as well as dietary fiber and other essential minerals.

To make sure you choose the best pumpkin, knock on its exterior first. You should hear a hollow thump. Inspect the pumpkin’s stem for any evidence of rotting, and check the outside for small holes or soft spots, which could signal insects.

If not being used right away, pumpkins can be stored a few weeks or months depending on the age of the pumpkin. For the longest shelf life, store your pumpkin on a soft material, such as cloth or straw, in a cool, dry place with little or no direct sunlight. Pumpkins stored in this method typically last no longer than three months.

You can also puree your pumpkin and store it in the freezer for much, much longer. This would be useful for year-round pumpkin pie!

Not sure what to do with all of those seeds? Our test kitchen has the answer!

Most Common Varieties:

Miniature or Small Pumpkins: The smallest pumpkins weigh only about 2 to 5 pounds, like the Baby Bear, Winter Luxury and Spooktacular; they are best for table decoration, however some are useful in cooking.

Intermediate Pumpkins: Varieties like the Magic Lantern, Merlin and Appalachian are slightly heavier, coming in between 8 and 15 pounds. These pumpkins will make the best Jack O’ Lanterns with their traditional orange colors and easy-to-handle sizes.

Large Pumpkins: This type of pumpkin includes the likes of the Aspen, Big Autumn and Gold Strike and weigh between 15 and 20 pounds. They are also great for carving and cooking.

Extra Large Pumpkins: Gold Rush, Jumpin’ Jack and Mammoth Gold make up this variety of pumpkin. Weighing between 20 to 40 pounds, pumpkins of this size are mostly used for decorations and carving.

Jumbo Pumpkins: The Prizewinner, Atlantic Giant and Big Max are examples of these whopping pumpkins! These varieties can weigh well over 100 pounds! Pumpkins of this variety are grown purely for their size.

Carve out some delicious pumpkin recipes today!
Pumpkin Rum Pie
Pumpkin Baked Ziti
Pumpkin Roll Cake
Souffled Pumpkin Pancake
Pumpkin Pecan Pie

Other Articles You May Like:

The Watermeltin’ Days of Summer


Slow Cookers are a Cook’s Best Friend


Life’s a Peach


Reader Comments:


I just love this time of year.  Going to the pumpkin patches to get my yearly supply of pumpkins for my fall baking needs. 

I have been baking pumpkin pies from scratch the past 24 years, only missing one yr due to illness.  I love to bake pies and give them to friends for their holiday family dinners.  For one friend in particular, I bake a pie for him, one for his son and then one for the rest of the family. 

The past couple of years have also made Paula’s Pumpkin Bar recipe and am asked to bring all the time to family gatherings along with my pies. 

I have a food saver and freeze the pumpkin puree in bags pre-measured for my various recipes, that way I can bake with it all year long.

Thank you Paula for all your wonderful recipes and tips!  Keep ‘em coming!

Patti of goodyear, az on October 18, 2010 10:37 AM

What is the best type of pumpkin to buy for pies? I really don’t want to use canned pumpkin.

Linda Penney of Hyde Park,N.Y. on October 18, 2010 11:25 AM

Hi Paula, Learned a lot of interesting things from your article, thanks. I’m wanting a recipe for a real light pumpkin pie recipe—more like a pumpkin custard pie. If you have one , would you share.  Love your programme-it’s such a happy show. !

Sylvia of Mission Hills California on October 18, 2010 11:38 AM

I watch you all the time, enjoy your show. I have your cookbook and your mag. So glad to see you on Facebook. love yo you alice hoyt

Alice M. Hoyt of phoenix, az. on October 18, 2010 02:18 PM

We use our spice mix from our spicy-candied pecan recipe for our toasted pumpkin seeds. The seeds from the white ghost pumpkins have a thicker texture, so we try to mix with seeds from the orange varieties. We do some hot, some sweet and bag them up for family. -Jerry

Jerry Simmons of Maryland on October 18, 2010 02:34 PM

Paula, I know you’ve been told this before, but you are THE BEST !!!! I love evrything about you smile  And I hope my hair will be as pretty as yours in a year or two….

Tammey Taylor of Dover, TN on October 18, 2010 03:41 PM

everyone uses pumpkin in pies ,cakes cookies but where I come from we use pumpkin in its truest form. Fried pumpkin ,peeled&shredded; ,melt 1stick butter (real butter) add pumpkin in a large skillet ,1 cup sugar ( real sugar) and cook on low to medium heat till pumpkin is translucent. stay with it it isnt something you can put on the stove and walk away ... my family waits all year for this I serve as a side dish with pork chops and my husband puts it on his biscuits , good hot or cold try it.Carolyn Key

Carolyn Key of Cape Coral ,Fl. on October 18, 2010 04:59 PM


I watched You on TV for a long time, then got hooked on this dang computer—but then I saw Your FB connection and well, I just wanted to say that You, Your life, Your programming..everything You have going is SOOOOOO SOOTHING homey, so “Normal”. So full of life. You just MAKE ME “HAPPY”..that’s all lol

Wasn’t gonna do it but changed my mind, whichis: carve pumpkins and create a little front porch vinette…Then try to get in this kitchen and rattle some pots pans…Times are hard for a lot of folk, but coming together for a meal (sit the bottoms down around the table too!), no matter how modest the fare~~~is such a simple thing to do and the return benefit is far more precious than GOLD…. to the soul and to the family.
Thank You for REMINDING us of these simple, bonding events..

All good things to and for You lovely Ms Paula


Kristine of Monterey Bay calif. on October 19, 2010 12:10 AM

To Linda in Hyde Park, when I buy pumpkins for pie baking, I just buy the ones that you would use for jack-o-lanterns.  I cut in half, scoop out inards, use potato peeler to peel off rind, cut into same size chunks and boil/steam until tender when poked with fork.  Once fork tender I put into colinder to drain and cool off before I start mashing away.  Something to keep in mind, there is quite a bit of water in cooked pumpkin so you will need to squeeze as much as possible.  I use a cheese cloth, place pumpkin in it, twist to squeeze out water and put aside.  If you don’t do this step your pie filling will be too watery.  I may try roasting a pumpkin this year to see how the flavor differs, if at all.  Also wondering if there will be less liquid expelled from the flesh if roasted.

Patti of goodyear, az on October 20, 2010 02:33 AM

Paula, I have been watching you since you did that show with Gordon Elliott going around fixing meals with what people had in their refrigerator.  To one Southerner to another you are the greatest so family oriented and wrapped up in one big box.  Love you girl.

Carolyn Wells of Virginia on October 20, 2010 07:52 AM

Dear P-P-Paula,
I am soooo hungry.  Can you help? What do I eat.

Nate Lumpkin of HUNGER on October 20, 2010 03:49 PM

hi paula, just watched your show ” cooking with paula”  you were cooking for 2. you nd your husband were eating steak, asparagas, and chocolate pie in your mothers glasses. i am going to make these recipes for my husband also. hope dinner turns out to look as good as yours. from one southern girl to another ,you are the greatest. lv you lots

connie hopson of tennessee on October 20, 2010 07:43 PM

Hello young Lady I want to thank you for sending your butter browny to walmart, again thank you. I was mad because you took so long to send them to walmart, how ever I will forgive you. I hope one day you and my family will get the opportunity to met you.

Jerome Whitehead of Fayetteville Ga on October 20, 2010 10:49 PM

Hi!  Thanks for all the GREAT info!!  Your site is one of my ablsolute favs!!  My problem??  You have info about pumpkins—which are the ultimate fall produce!!  BUT….no pumpkin muffin recipes???  DARN!!  I thought for sure…..

Krisi Garrand of Malone, NY on October 21, 2010 02:06 PM

I have heard you say the pumkin is from the gourd family.  Well, I planted some gourd’s and I mean I got a lot of gourds, well I picked one about 8’’ long and fryed it like I do squash, rolled in meal and it teasted just like squash.  Have you ever tried this?  It was very good.  Let me know what you think. Jewel Correll

Jewel Correll of Leesburg, Fl on October 22, 2010 07:14 AM

Hi! I love this website, you have the best dishes. I cook for my dad all the time and use most of your recipies, I love them and can’t wait to try pumkin recipies!!!!

Rose Adams of Athens, GA on October 22, 2010 06:26 PM

I would love to be on your fb pages to get some of your recipe, That I see u on T.V. I love your shows, I see them everyday, Your friend Jackie Beal

Jackie Beal of Taylorsville N.C. on October 22, 2010 10:47 PM

Paula, Sweetie do you have a recipe for pumpkin and cream cheese rollup cake? I love your show and you are an inspireation to all us gals over fifty. You’re living proof that life gets better after our hair turns silver! lv ya Granny Franny

Fran Cassidy of Piedmont,Mo. on October 26, 2010 01:25 AM

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SalmaErax of Canada on January 06, 2012 01:44 PM


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