Colorful squash and gourds are signs of Thanksgiving to me—harking back to the Pilgrims—and the Thanksgiving table would not be complete without them. Here are some unusual varieties to look out for—warts and all—and ways to these natural decorations in the home for displays and centerpieces.
Squash, pumpkin, and guards are all represented at the earliest Thanksgiving feasts. Our Pilgrim forefathers subsisted on these edibles during their harsh winters, thanks to the Narragansett Indians who gave them seeds, growing advice and easy recipes. The Pilgrims had gone hungry their first winter, turning up noses at the long-storing foods like pumpkin and squash. When summer came, the colonists planted the seeds given to them by their Native American neighbors. That’s why I pick my pumpkins carefully so that they both enhance my Thanksgiving decorations and stay edible for future use.
Unusual Pumpkin and Gourd Varieties
Have you seen those warty pumpkins and gourds at farmers markets, orchards and garden centers? The ones with growths that look like big zits or peanuts? I first saw ‘Knuckle Head’, a slightly warty orange pumpkin, last year at a local orchard that also sells pumpkins, gourds and corn shocks. Of course, I bought it, along with a half dozen bumpy gourds.
(However, I also quickly discovered that the pumpkin and gourds were genetically altered and patented by Siegers Seed. Saved seeds don’t come true, unfortunately.)
See the photo below. What do you think? Yes, this is the way it’s supposed to look! I love the texture and it’s a great talk piece.
‘Knuckle Head’ was the first warty pumpkin I encountered.
During my vacation travels last month, I found a pink pumpkin that was wallpapered with huge peanuts! Not really. The growths or warts strongly resemble the shape and color of peanuts. It’s a 220-year-old heirloom, ‘Galeux d’Eysines’ from France.
‘Galeux d’Eysines’ is often called the peanut pumpkin for obvious reasons. The flesh makes tasty pies and other goodies.
The warts are created by the build-up of excess sugars in the flesh. In other words, the more peanuts, the tastier the flesh is. Needless-to-say, I’m making pumpkin bread, cheesecake and pie from it. And, I’m saving the seeds to grow next year.
Another heirloom pumpkin I love is muted blue-gray Jarrahdale from Australia. It’s ribbed and changes colors, from blue to musty peach, as it ages. The flesh is bright orange, dry and sweet. I’ve grown it for years, because it stores well and for its ghostly color.
‘Jarrahdale’, a ghostly pumpkin from Australia stores well for up to nine months.
Pumpkins and squash isn’t just for eating. Here are ideas on using natural decorations for Thanksgiving! I hope this inspires you.
If you have an outdoor patio or area, fill your containers and pots and doorsteps with harvest goodness for a very seasonal display.
Inside, display your guards and squash in a woven basket to set on a table or shelf.
How about a natural centerpiece for the table? Keep it low with mini-pumpkins and guards; add apples, pinecones and small candles.
Credit: Svetlana Cherruty/Shutterstock
Pumpkins can also be hollowed out to create a vase for a fall bouquet of flowers and foliage!
Credit: Agnes Kantaruk/Shutterstock
Or, hallow out small gourds and pumpkins to hold candles or candesticks …
And for something else natural …
So, as you carefully select your Thanksgiving menu items, pick up some unusual pumpkins and gourds—that are both decorative and edible!