Hokkaido, Butternut and Co.: An overview of popular pumpkin varieties

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Writed by - Andy Gocker
  Hokkaido, Butternut and Co.: An overview of popular pumpkin varieties
Pumpkins are in season in fall and are incredibly versatile in the kitchen. © Studio Barcelona/Shutterstock.com, SpotOn

Autumn classic

In autumn, not only the leaves shine in beautiful shades of orange and red. You can now buy delicious pumpkins everywhere. Around 200 of the 800 varieties are suitable for consumption. The rest are ornamental fruits. Whether as a soup, with pasta or as a side dish: the plants are versatile in the kitchen, which makes them a popular ingredient. But what is the best way to prepare the different varieties and what should you look out for when shopping?

Important features when shopping

In Germany, a general distinction is made between garden, musk and giant pumpkins as well as between summer and winter pumpkins. The growers harvest the summer varieties when they are unripe. They are characterized by a thin, edible skin. Disadvantage: They only last a few days. Winter squash have a hard skin and will last for months in a dark room.

When shopping, make sure that the pumpkin has no bruises or soft spots. It is better to use smaller specimens, as they are less fibrous and have a more intense taste. If the squash sounds hollow when you tap it, it's ripe.

Favorite: Hokkaido

The most popular type of pumpkin in Germany is the Hokkaido. Despite its small size, it is one of the giant pumpkins. The orange plant originally comes from the Japanese northern island of Hokkaido, which gave it its name in Europe. The flesh is firm, low in fibers and has a nutty taste. The skin can remain on, it will soften as it cooks. Whether as a soup, casserole, puree or pasta - the Hokkaido goes with many things. The pumpkin is good raw in salads or as a carpaccio.

Nutmeg pumpkin: Now it's getting colorful

The ribbed skin makes the nutmeg pumpkin an absolute eye-catcher. You can tell how ripe the pumpkin is by its color. It is green when unripe, then slowly turns beige-brown and finally the skin is orange. The nutmeg pumpkin is one of the musk pumpkins and can weigh up to 30 kilograms. Because of its size, it's popular for carving faces on Halloween. If the pumpkin lands on the plate, the skin has to go. The pulp is characterized by a nutmeg note - which explains the name. The nutmeg pumpkin is particularly suitable for purees, soups or chutneys. Ginger and chilli go well with the all-rounder.

The skin has to go: the butternut squash

You can also find the yellowish butternut squash in the supermarket. The light orange flesh has a slight buttery aroma and tastes sweet. The pear-shaped, elongated pumpkin belongs to the musk pumpkin family and originally comes from South America. One drawback: the shell takes a long time to soften. But it has fewer seeds and lasts for several months. Strong flavors such as garlic, chilli or curry spices go well with the pumpkin. The yellow variant is also good in cakes.

Funny appearance, particularly aromatic: bishop's hat

The bishop's cap variety scores with its unusual shape: as it grows, the base of the flower stays in the ring, which is why the flesh of the fruit usually comes in a different colour. It is best to scoop out as the squash is difficult to cut. What's left of the bishop's hat doesn't have to be thrown away, but can be used as a soup kettle. The aromatic pulp is perfect for soups.

The exotic: spaghetti squash

Spaghetti squash is more exotic. This is one of the garden pumpkins, originally from Asia and looks like a honeydew melon from the outside. The pulp consists of long, yellowish fibers reminiscent of spaghetti. The preparation is uncomplicated: Cook whole or cut in half and then scrape out the inside with a spoon. Season with salt and pepper, sprinkle with Parmesan and the pumpkin dish is ready.

Jack be little: small, but mighty

The Jack be Little variety weighs a maximum of 400 grams. Because of the bright orange peel, it is also known as a mandarin pumpkin and is often used for decoration. The small plant has a sweet flesh that is reminiscent of the taste of chestnuts. You can eat the shell. Jack be Little is easy to fill - for example with minced meat or couscous.

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