'Tis the season to choose pumpkins

| Friday, Oct. 5, 2012, 9:19 p.m.

A trip to your local farm or farmers market this time of year will result in a feast for both the palette and the eyes. One of my favorite things to spot this time of year are the plethora of unusual, boutique pumpkins local growers are carrying.

Ten years ago, a trip to the market would result only in the traditional orange pumpkins. But now, there are so many choices and many of them are actually old, heirloom pumpkin varieties. As you are out and about this year selecting pumpkins to carve into jack-o'-lanterns or bake into pies, be on the lookout for these stunning selections:

Black Futsu: The New York Times listed this as their favorite pumpkin a few years back. And deservedly so. The flattened, round fruit has heavy ribbing and a bumpy rind. They have dark green/black skin with golden, nutty flavored flesh. This is a good variety for gardeners with limited space since the vine is more compact than other varieties. It also has a moderate resistance to insects and diseases.

Galeux d'Eysines: An incredible French heirloom with salmon-peach skin covered in tan peanut-looking warts, this variety is a complete show-stopper. The longer these fruits mature, the more warts they develop. This corking results from expanded fractures in the skin that occur because of the fruit's high sugar content and thin skin. The flesh is very creamy and smooth and is a favorite for pies and soups. Its name means “embroidered with warts from Eysines” — the small city in France from which it hails.

Marina Di Chioggia: Sometimes called the sea pumpkin, this variety is surely one of the prettiest pumpkins you'll ever see. The 4-to-10-pound, round and flat fruits are a deep blue-green, and the skin is covered with innumerable smooth bumps. The flesh is bright-orange and delicious. Simply stunning.

Jarrahdale: Hailing from Australia, this variety produces 6-to-10-pound, slate-blue fruits shaped much like a flattened drum. They are round with deep ribs and beautiful, smooth skin. The flesh is dry and smooth with a nice fragrance. The rind is dense. So dense, in fact, that you may need an axe to cut it in half — but that thick skin pays off. Jarrahdale stores up to two years.

Musque de Provence: Often called “the fairytale pumpkin,” these flat pumpkins are shaped much like a wheel of cheese and can weigh up to 20 pounds each. Their heavy lobes and deep ribs start out dark-green and mature to a deep mahogany color. The variety hails from southern France, boasts decent pest resistance and keeps up to a year in proper storage.

One Too Many: A recent introduction from the Rupp Seed Co. this pumpkin is a pale-cream color with orange-mottled netting all over it. The fruits can be either round or elongated and weigh 15 to 20 pounds each on average. It is said to have good tolerance to mildew. So distinctive.

Triamble: A tri-lobed heirloom pumpkin from Australia, Triamble ranges in color from a pale slate blue to a deep green. It is a true novelty that has excellent flavor. The skin is hard, making it a long-lasting storage pumpkin, too.

Valenciano: Pure white, flattened fruits are surprisingly elegant. The 12-inch-diameter fruit stand a mere 6 to 8 inches tall and have light ribbing. Just plain beautiful.

Horticulturist Jessica Walliser co-hosts “The Organic Gardeners” at 7 a.m. Sundays on KDKA Radio. She is the author of several gardening books, including “Grow Organic” and “Good Bug, Bad Bug.” Her website is www.jessicawalliser.com.

Send your gardening or landscaping questions to tribliving@tribweb.com or The Good Earth, 503 Martindale St., 3rd Floor, D.L. Clark Building, Pittsburgh, PA 15212.

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