Officially, the fall season starts today for countries in the Northern Hemisphere (the United States, Canada).
We are enjoying the last of the sweet summer corn, and now see dried and decorative corn in the market.
And I lament not savoring enough local cherries (yet again) this year.
Pumpkins / Squashes of varying shapes and sizes are now in stores and market stands.
And by the way, if you are wondering what the difference is between a pumpkin and a squash — or a gourd — the answer is at the end of this post.
This year, there seems to be more varieties than ever, like the cream and orange pumpkins below. They look to me like designer pumpkins, and the texture and pattern could be on a sofa or chair fabric.
There are white pumpkins
There are also miniature white and orange pumpkins
And beautiful, as well as crazy, alien looking squashes (at least what I call squash)
My favorites are these turban squashes, for the unusual shape and color variety
Here is the answer to the question, what is the difference between a pumpkin, squash and a gourd (from the Texas A&M Aggie Horticulture website).
The genetic history of the pumpkin is so intertwined with the squash and the gourd that it’s sometimes difficult to tell them apart.
Generally speaking a pumpkin is something you carve, a squash is something you cook and a gourd is something you look at. Though it’s really not that simple, it’s also not that difficult. The answer is in the stem.
Pumpkins and squashes and gourds all belong to the same genetic family – Cucurbita. Within that family are several species or subgroups – Cucurbita pepo, Cucurbita maxima and Cucurbita moschata.
The pepo species is usually recognized as the true pumpkin. Varieties within this group have bright orange skin and hard, woody, distinctly furrowed stems. But the group also includes gourds, vegetable marrow, Pattypan summer squash, scallop summer squash, gray and black zucchini and summer crookneck squash.
The maxima species also contains varieties that produce pumpkin-like fruit but the skin is usually more yellow than orange and the stems are soft and spongy or corky, without ridges and without an enlargement next to the fruit. They don’t really make good handles for jack-o’-lanterns. Varieties such as Atlantic Giant, Big Max and Show King are often listed as pumpkins but are more properly called pumpkin-squash or squash- type pumpkins. Other members of the maxima group are Hubbard squashes, banana squashes, buttercup squashes and turban squashes – in short, most autumn and winter squash.
Finally, there’s the moschata species. Varieties in this group are usually long and oblong instead of round and have tan rather than orange skin. The stems are deeply ridged and enlarged next to the fruit. Ironically, a member of this group is used for much of the canned pumpkin sold in this country. Other non-pumpkin members include the squash-like cushaw, winter crookneck squash and butternut squash.
And if you are wondering where the Cucurbitas — photographed for this post — can be purchased, we found these at the Moss Landing Farm Fresh Produce Stand today, next to the The Whole Enchilada Marketplace off Hwy 1.
Enjoy the fall…and your pumpkin pies. And remind me to eat more cherries (and maybe make a cobbler) next summer. This summer went by so quickly.