Q: I got a “pie pumpkin” and a carving pumpkin in my CSA share. What is the difference? Can I eat the carving pumpkin? I have never cooked pumpkin from scratch before.
A: Pie pumpkins and carving pumpkins are close cousins, but they have some important differences. The pumpkin varieties that are bred for carving tend to have thin walls to make it easier to get a knife through them; they’ve got less flesh and more air inside. Pie pumpkins tend to be smaller and rounder, and they tend to have thicker flesh. A pie pumpkin will often feel heavier for its size than a carving pumpkin will.
You can eat either one of them, but the pie pumpkin is likely to taste a lot better and have better texture. The carving pumpkin will probably be tougher, stringier, less sweet and just generally less flavorful.
Don’t eat a pumpkin if you carved it and let it sit out. Unrefrigerated pumpkin flesh can quickly develop a bacterial level that can be hazardous if eaten. An uncarved pumpkin can be stored for some time, but once it’s cut open, it will be unsuitable for eating within hours.
You can eat the seeds of either carving pumpkins or pie pumpkins. Clean the goop off of them, spread them on a baking sheet, toss them in a bit of oil and salt if you like, and roast them in the oven. Eat them as a snack or a garnish on soups or salads.
You can cook the pie pumpkin as you would any other squash. Remove the seeds, then roast it, steam it, boil it, or cook it in the microwave. Discard the skin. Use the flesh in sweet or savory dishes. It’s not just for pie! Consider pumpkin risotto or ravioli, for example.
If you wind up with more cooked pumpkin than you need for your recipe, you can freeze the puree. We do not recommend canning pumpkin puree or pumpkin butter.
Written by U of M Extension Master Gardeners in St. Louis County. Send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.