Pumpkin pie is a classic dessert at many holiday tables. What began as an occasional tasty treat now dominates the fall and winter, with pumpkin spice varieties of many drinks and snacks.
Growing your own pumpkins can create delicious pies but it’s important to know which of the many varieties work best for baking. Not all gourds are created equal. The best pie pumpkins are smooth and sweet, not stringy and bitter. Whether you’re a novice or professional baker, here are the pumpkin seeds to grow.
What Are the Best Pumpkin Seeds for Pie?
The best seeds to plant for delicious pumpkin pies are “sugar” or “pie” pumpkins. These are smaller pumpkins with less strings and a sweeter taste than the ones you’d typically carve or display. Their taste and consistency pairs well with the dessert.
Plant your pumpkin seeds after the last threat of frost. The soil should be between 65 and 95 degrees Fahrenheit. You can directly sow them into the ground or start them indoors. For a Halloween harvest, experts recommended northern states plant them in late May, and southern states plant in late July. On average, pumpkins can be ready for harvest between 95 and 115 days after you plant. It can vary based on species and weather conditions.
You can grow several pumpkin varieties in containers, but most need the space of a patch. Plant two or three seeds at a time, placing your groups at least six inches apart. Planting pumpkins in rows is best, keeping your rows at least eight feet apart.
Pumpkins are an excellent gourd to grow, thanks to its versatility. Pumpkins are an excellent source of vitamin A, essential for skin health, growth, vision and immunity. It’s also a good source of fiber, potassium, omega-3s, and vitamin C. They also make great fall decor— you can roast the seeds and carve impressive jack-o-lanterns.
Despite growing over the summer, pumpkins are winter squash. You can use harvested sugar pumpkins to make delicious treats in the fall and winter. There are several species of sugar pumpkins, and each has advantages.
Baby bear pumpkins are perfect for little hands since they weigh only one to two pounds. They have a pale, rustic orange color and are as great for pies as they are for crafts.
Fully grown autumn gold pumpkins are seven to 10 pounds. They are round with a vibrant orange color.
Baby Pam pumpkins are four to eight pounds and are easy to grow in containers. They are a deep orange color that also make great decor.
Cinderella (Rouge Vif D’Etampe)
Cinderella or “Fairytale” pumpkins are rumored to be the pumpkins Disney used to create the title princess’ magical carriage. They are an orange-red color that can weigh over 20 pounds. They are short and wide pumpkins with plenty of the fruit’s signature “ribs.”
Ghost riders grow 15 to 20 pounds and are a yellow-orange color. Their larger size makes the shell excellent for carving jack-o-lanterns.
These pumpkins stand out thanks to their lovely white exteriors. They are around 10 to 12 pounds. They work well in pies, as decorations or a fun jack-o-lantern.
New England Pie Pumpkins
New England Pie Pumpkins are a small, round dwarf variety with a deep orange color. They are between four and six pounds. They are one of the easiest pumpkins to grow in the north, hence its name.
Sugar Pie Pumpkins
Sugar Pie pumpkins are a light, bright orange color with a ball-like shape. They grow anywhere from five to fifteen pounds and have a rich taste.
There are several other sugar pumpkin varieties, with many hybrids. If they are listed as sugar or pie pumpkins, they should be great for your desserts.
Making Pumpkin Puree
To make pumpkin pie, you’ll need to turn the smooth flesh of your sugar pumpkins into a puree. You can purchase canned puree from a grocery store, but nothing compares to a fresh batch.
Puree doesn’t sit on a shelf for months when you make it yourself. Tests found that most people preferred the taste of fresh pumpkin compared to canned options.
Cut your pumpkins in half to make puree, and remove any seeds or pulp. Cover the halves with foil and bake at 325 degrees Fahrenheit for an hour or until the flesh is tender. Scoop the flesh out of the pumpkin and mash or blend until smooth. You can store puree in the refrigerator for up to a week or freeze it for up to a year.
Once you have your fresh puree, add your desired spices, flour and condensed milk for a delectable pie filling.
Storing Your Pumpkins
If you aren’t ready to dig into your pumpkins as soon as you pick them, you can store them in a cool, dry place. Experts recommend rinsing uncompromised pumpkins in cool water and drying them thoroughly. Once dry, store the pumpkin in low humidity with a temperature between 45 and 50 degrees Fahrenheit for up to six months.
Choosing the Right Pumpkin Seeds for Pumpkin Pie
Not all pumpkins are created equal. Choosing the right seeds to grow is the key to creating the best homemade pumpkin pie.