Eat or Not To Eat: Some Pumpkins Are Just For Decoration Only
Have you seen these pumpkin and squash displays lately? Some of these look familiar but some of these are wild-looking squashes looks like they have numerous bumps or warts and have been spray painted!
These are known as ornamental pumpkins. Also known as decorative pumpkins, these small squashes that little bigger than your hand make great decorations around the kitchen and home during the holidays but you might be surprised or even alarmed to see them displayed where the edible kalabasa and pumpkins are sold as well.
Can you eat decorative pumpkins?
It's a "yes" and "no" because not all pumpkins and squash (also known as gourds) are suitable for eating. Some are best used primarily as decoration and those grown specifically to be ornamental are not recommended as edible. These are labeled as "decorative" or "ornamental".
Fortunately, it's easy to tell if the gourd you pick up is edible or not because most ornamental pumpkins are dried and thus, extra hard to cut up. Even if these imperfect yet adorable gourds are not edible, they nonetheless make perfect festive Halloween (and Thanksgiving) decorations for your home.
While some you may find in this display are familiar such as the local kalabasa and the pumpkins used for turning into Jack O lanterns, some are not as familiar. If you're there to use these as decor, take your pick! But if you're planning to do more with these gourds afterward and are unsure about which is edible and which is not, we have a quick visual guide.
Here are some of the pumpkins that you may see in the stores and notes on whether these are edible or not:
Jack Be Little Pumpkin
These pumpkins called Jack Be Little, or basically mini pumpkins, are smaller versions of the big Jack O Lantern pumpkins that you might want to carve out to create the lanterns that are so popular in American culture for Thanksgiving and Halloween. These are allegedly mild in flavor so it's a great pumpkin to spice up and make delicious.
The local kalabasa is a hardy squash and looks most similar to the pumpkin, except for its green and orange striped rind. It's a hard vegetable that is wonderful when roasted but just as delicious when simply simmered and then sautéed in a savory dish like in a ginataang kalabasa recipe or smashed in a lutik.
The kalabasa are gorgeous when sliced open revealing its bright yellow-orange flesh and seeds but can be used as decor when still whole.
This long squash that tapers into a round body at the bottom near the root stem is a popular squash. It's got a gorgeously bright orange flesh similar to the kalabasa we are familiar with but has a different taste. It's sweet, and nutty, and becomes a silky puree when cooked and mashed, hence its name.
These are lovely as large decorations but are excellent when turned into soup or cut up and used like you would a kalabasa.
Use: edible, for decoration
This orange, off-white, and green speckled and striped squash called a carnival squash is small in size which makes it an excellent candidate for tabletop decor. That's only part of the good news since this is also an edible squash. It's got the same lovely orange flesh but lighter in hue and has a nutty sweet taste that is sweeter than butternut squash so you can use these small squashes as a substitute for the butternut in recipes.
Use: edible, for decoration
The delicata squash is a long gourd that looks like the cucumber or zucchini but bigger and with more cream than green stripes. While all three are squashes, the delicata grows later in the year like other pumpkins and is fleshier. This is lovely as decoration but is also great when roasted, baked, or simply fried until tender. The delicate rind is edible and doesn't need to be removed before cooking.
Goblin Egg Squash
Use: for decoration, NOT edible
These egg-shaped squashes are lovely because they start off green and slowly become yellow-orange stripes that creep down and overtake the green parts of the squash. It's these markings that make these highly coveted as decorative pumpkins. These are usually not edible since these are commonly harvested when aesthetically dual-colored and dried so these will last longer as decor.
Need a visual guide on which of these decorative pumpkins and squashes are edible and not edible? Check out these picture guides of different kinds of squash and pumpkins from The New York Times and Martha Stewart to see if the pumpkin you have can be cut up and made into a delicious and creamy squash soup or added to your ginataang kalabasa ulam dish.
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