At Linvilla Orchards in Media, produce manager Ed Farace stocks plenty of pumpkin and winter squash varieties that he says taste much better than the standard jack-o'-lantern type.
They're all good for you, but as a rule the more orange the meat, the more nutrients it contains, including vitamin C, potassium, omega-3 fatty acids, and beta-carotene.
Any of the varieties mentioned below can be purchased now and stored inside in a cool spot for use this winter.
Fairytale and Cinderella pumpkins: Both of these deeply ribbed pumpkins will remind you of the kind that magically became a carriage for Cinderella when her fairy godmother sang "Bibbidi, bobbidi, boo." Both have a flat appearance, as if they have been stepped on and squashed. Fairytales are pale orange while Cinderellas are a rich orange-red color. Cinderellas are popular in France, where they're called Rouge Vif d' Etampes.
Long Island Cheese pumpkin: This is an heirloom variety that is round but flattish, like a wheel of cheese, with a pale orange, almost beige, striated exterior.
The Peanut pumpkin, or Galeux D'Eysines, sometimes called a Bohemian pumpkin, is a French heirloom variety with a sweet, nutty flavor and very moist orange meat. But the round exterior looks anything but pretty because its salmon-colored skin is covered with what appear to be warts. These are really nuggets of sugar that seeped out and deposited on the skin, and you don't have to remove them before baking.
Blue Hubbard: This has a grayish-blue rind over deep-orange flesh. Some are round and ribbed like jack-o'-lanterns, while others resemble huge, amorphous blobs. Don't let appearances deceive you, the taste is nutty and sweet.
Acorn: This multicolored squash with stripes of orange, dark green and yellow is smaller than pumpkins and comes to a point at the bottom (so they don't stand up by themselves). Once acorns are cooked and the meat removed, the shells make attractive tureens for individual servings of turkey stuffing, bread pudding, or squash-and-sweet-potato puree. Acorns are the toughest to cut. Try piercing with a fork and either boiling or baking whole briefly in order to cut.
Butternut: This pale orange squash is grown in medium to large sizes, and some have long, crooked necks. Some say they're the best-tasting.
Turban: This yellow-, orange-, green-striped squash looks like acorn squash wearing a turban.
Orangetti: You've probably seen the pale yellow variety of spaghetti squash in supermarkets. This less common orange type is identical in shape, but deep orange inside and out and much more flavorful. Like spaghetti squash, it can be cut in two to remove the seeds, then boiled until tender. When you run a fork across its cooked inner surface the squash pulls up in pale golden filaments, like strands of spaghetti.
Cushaw: This comes in orange or green varieties, with a striated rind, and often a long, crooked neck.
Pink Banana: Shaped like a banana but much bigger, this humongous pinkish blob, grown only in the U.S., is buttery sweet. Try it mashed, instead of sweet potatoes. It's often packaged in raw chunks.
Kabocha: This Japanese variety resembles a traditional pumpkin, but is smaller, with a tender, striated rind and golden flesh.
- Dianna Marder