Yard & Garden Report


| Share

The Secret to Making Pumpkin Pie

Did you know America's favorite pumpkin pie is made with 100% butternut squash?

Tasty winter squash
America's favorite pumpkin pie is made of 100% butternut squash. Some of the finest tasting squash are 'Dickinson', 'Uncle David's Dakota Dessert' and 'Lakota'.

Pumpkin is definitely the flavor of the month. For breakfast this morning, a local diner offered a cup of pumpkin spice latte with pumpkin pancakes and pumpkin oatmeal. For dessert, you could enjoy pumpkin cupcakes or a slice of pumpkin cheesecake!

This pumpkin mania goes back to our love for pumpkin pie. Gardeners often ask, “What is the best pumpkin variety for cooking?” You might be surprised.

Most of America’s pumpkin pies are made using Libby’s canned pumpkin puree. Their canned pumpkin is actually butternut squash (Cucurbita moschata).

Thousands of acres of ‘Libby’s Select Dickinson’ butternut squash are grown near their processing plant in Illinois. The original 'Dickinson' squash is an heirloom from Kentucky and is available from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. Notice that its shape lacks ribbing, making it easier to roll along the conveyor belt and easier to peel before processing (see photo on bottom left).

What’s the difference between a squash and a pumpkin? The terms can be used interchangeably.

The key point: If you want a delicious tasting pumpkin treat, use a squash and not a jack-o’-lantern for the recipe. The flesh of a typical Halloween pumpkin (C. pepo) is relatively thin, stringy and watery. The flesh of butternut squash is deep orange, thick, smooth in texture, and rich in sugars and nutrients.

Many gardeners who grow squash believe that buttercup (C. maxima) is most flavorful. We can be proud that buttercup squash was introduced to the world by the North Dakota Agricultural College in 1931. ‘Burgess’ is a popular cultivar and ‘Uncle David’s Dakota Dessert Squash’ (see photo on bottom center) is very flavorful. ‘Uncle David’s Dakota Dessert’ is offered by Prairie Road Organic Seed and Fedco (please Google any of the cultivars mentioned herein for additional seed sources).

Squash is part of our state’s heritage (the Three Sisters Garden). Our native tribes sliced squash, skewered it through willow sticks and dried it in the sun. Squash was vital for their survival during winter. It feels good to grow something that fed our people for centuries. ‘Lakota’ is a beautiful and delicious squash (see photo on bottom right).

Best wishes for a wonderful autumn. Enjoy your pumpkin—or should I say squash—pie!

Written by Tom Kalb, Extension Horticulturist, North Dakota State University. Published in the NDSU Yard & Garden Report, October 12, 2016.

Contributing sources: 
Boboltz, S. 2014. Here’s why your pumpkin pie probably has no pumpkin in it at all. Huffington Post. October 8. 
The Long Island Seed Project. 2007.

Photos were made available under Creative Commons licenses specified by the photographers: Agricultural Research Service of the United States Department of Agriculture via Wikimedia Commons; Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds (www.rareseeds.com); Bluestem Farm, .../brookfordfarm/6213547307/; Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds (www.rareseeds.com).

Creative Commons License
Feel free to use and share this content, but please do so under the conditions of our Creative Commons license and our Rules for Use. Thanks.