Pumpkins – the ultimate symbol of fall. Their pleasing shapes and warm colors remind us of the smoky sweet glow of jack-o’-lanterns at Halloween and the taste of pumpkin pie by Thanksgiving. But when it comes to culinary charisma or decorative charm, not all pumpkins are created equal. Many heirloom varieties break the “round, orange” mold by offering different shapes, textures and unlikely colors like salmon, blue-gray and green. Such nontraditional pumpkins add uniqueness to fall decorating, as well as bring amazing flavor to favorite pumpkin recipes.

‘Brodé Galeux D’Eysines’ pumpkin

You won’t find a pumpkin as unique as ‘Brodé Galeux D’Eysines’.

Photo Credit: Jessie Keith

‘Rouge Vif D’Etampes’ pumpkin

Nothing is more vibrant than the rich orange-red of ‘Rouge Vif D’Etampes’.

Photo Credit: Jessie Keith

Heirloom Pumpkins

Heirloom pumpkins are not always your typical orange.

Photo Credit: Jessie Keith

Cool squash have cool names, and five heirlooms with uncommon names, attributes and flavors to whet the palate include ‘Brodé Galeux D’Eysines’, ‘Jarrahdale’, ‘Long Island Cheese’, ‘Rouge Vif D’Etampes’ and ‘Triamble’.

The French love pumpkins and have cultivated many treasures. One of their most fine, Cucurbita maxima ‘Brodé Galeux D’Eysines’– meaning “embroidered with warts from Eysines” (a small city in the southwest of France) – is a visual masterpiece. It has pale salmon-orange skin covered with amazing veins of protruding warts and yields plenty of smooth, rich pumpkin for pie.

The blue-gray color, deep ribs and perfect pumpkin shape of Cucurbita maxima ‘Jarrahdale’ make it a decorative winner as well. Its smooth, deep-orange flesh has a complex flavor that makes for superb pumpkin soups and muffins.

While there are many American heirlooms, Cucurbita moschata ‘Long Island Cheese’ is one of the best. It was first made commercially available in New York State in the mid-19th century and is still popular today. Likened in appearance to a pale orange wheel of cheese, this pumpkin has exceptionally flavorful dense flesh that’s choice for pies and other sweet treats.

Another French favorite, " Cucurbita maxima ‘Rouge Vif D’Etampes’ has impressive flattened, dark orange-red fruit. Sometimes called “the Cinderella pumpkin,” it’s sure to impress when used in any fall table display.

Finally, another rarity, Cucurbita maxima ‘Triamble’, has seafoam green skin and a remarkable triangular shape. This great keeper can last for months in a cool, dry place and has earthy sweet flesh.

While it may be too late to grow heirloom pumpkins for this year’s autumn harvest (pumpkins need very warm weather and an average of 100 days from germination to harvest), you can still enjoy their beauty and taste by seeking them out at local orchard stands, and farmers’ or roadside markets. Then next spring, with some garden space and proper planning, you can grow a few of these amazing pumpkins yourself. Cooking and decorating with your own heirloom pumpkins will make fall that much more special and different.