Ask Chef Emily: Are All Pumpkins Edible?


Dear Chef Emily,

A friend posted a picture on her Facebook wall of small pumpkins, what I would call Jack B. Littles, with the caption “making pumpkin pie this weekend!” I didn’t think that those were edible … – Lois in Manorville

Dear Lois,

Pumpkin season is upon us! And so is baking season (though does that ever really go away?) Regarding the pumpkins in question: technically speaking all pumpkins (and gourds for that matter) are edible. However, you don’t want to eat them all. Like everything else culinary, generations of seed selection (and modification) have defined characteristics in fruits and vegetables for particular applications. Those Jack B. Littles you mention were not selected for lots of creamy sweet flesh, but rather diminutive adorability. Your friend won’t come to any harm butchering up the little Jacks, but she will put in a lot of work cutting through tough skin and removing lots of seeds and webbing resulting in a usable portion that is by ratio, very small compared to a variety cultivated for cooking.

For pie, Melissa Clark over at the NYTimes, the Cooking Channel, and The Kitchn all did exhaustive testing of available autumnal squashes so that you don’t have to. And guess what? Its not even pumpkin.

And that’s if you want to clean up a squash into usable bits yourself! Its a lot of elbow grease, time and a sharp knife. I’ll never look askance at someone’s opting for canned pumpkin (which is usually butternut squash), which means more time to focus on the crust, but that’s another post entirely.

Another pumpkin pie pumpkin is the Long Island cheese pumpkin, which was selected to grow best right here, on Long Island.

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