Pumpkins for Eating, Carving, and Painting

pile of orange pumpkins with green stems

Halloween will be here soon, and the shops are overflowing with pumpkins of all shapes and sizes. These beautiful cucurbits have a variety of uses, from the main ingredient of baked goods and soups, to décor on our porches.

Edible Pumpkins:

Pie pumpkins are usually small, between 4-8” tall, with dense flesh inside. They have a high sugar content to make pies and baked goods sweet. The larger pumpkins traditionally used for carving are also edible, but they have low sugar content and stringy flesh, which makes them better suited for pureed soups. Both kinds have seeds that taste good when roasted.

Popular varieties of pie pumpkin include ‘Sugar Pie’ ‘New England Pie’ and ‘Baby Pam Pumpkin’

Carving Pumpkins:

Carving pumpkins usually are harvested when they are 10-18”. They have a thin, but firm rind, which makes them easy to carve. Pumpkins that are very large (24” and up) usually have a very thick rind, which makes cutting them more difficult. Once a pumpkin is carved, it will last 5-10 days before starting to collapse. To make carved pumpkins last longer, keep them out of direct sunlight and spray an anti-transpirant around any holes to prevent moisture loss.

‘Jack-O-Lantern’ is the variety of pumpkin most stores carry for carving, but ‘Lumina’, a white pumpkin, is also commonly found.


Painting pumpkins has become a popular alternative to carving for both children and adults.

Children can use acrylic craft paint to make traditional jack-o-lantern faces or fun designs, and adults can spray paint pumpkins to match fall décor. This provides a safer and slightly less messy way to have some Halloween fun.

Varieties without ribbing are ideal for children to paint such as ‘Orange Smoothie’ and ‘Cotton Candy’.

Prepared by Lindsey Smith, Plant Collections Curator