If you want to have an idea of what sugar pumpkins are, imagine the Jack-o-Lanterns we have during Halloween, only smaller and thus, not really the perfect choice for Halloween carving; it will take a very talented carver to accomplish the very task of making an intricate carving from something so small, and since there are bigger pumpkins out there, who wants to make a fun activity difficult, right? But the sugar pumpkin is good for something else, something better. They are very delicious so why waste them as an ornament when you can make delicious food using sugar pumpkin as an ingredient?
Species: C. pepo
Binomial name: Cucurbita pepo
Sugar Pumpkin Trivia
- Sugar pumpkins go by other names, such as pie pumpkins and sweet pumpkins.
- October is pumpkin season, so expect stores and markets full to the brim with different kinds of pumpkins, including sugar pumpkins because 80% of pumpkins are harvested this month.
- Pumpkins are not the original go-to when it comes to carving jack-o-lanterns – it was turnips and potatoes first, but thanks to Irish immigrants, the practice shifted towards using pumpkins which are easier to carve.
- Antarctica is the only place on earth where pumpkins can’t grow.
- The title of “pumpkin capital” currently belongs to Morton, Illinois.
Sugar Pumpkin Buying Guide
If you are wondering how to spot the best sugar pumpkin in the supermarket, consider these tried and tested techniques. Hold it. If it feels heavy compared to its size, that is a good sign. The next part you should check is the skin – the surface should look dull, not glossy. If you see any bruising on the skin, any part that has discoloration or damage like cracks or holes, do not buy this sugar pumpkin.
Sugar pumpkins are available in the market, grocery, or supermarket especially during harvest season where there is peak supply. You can also buy sugar pumpkins in farm stands and roadside stalls if you pass by farmlands that grow and harvest sugar pumpkins. There is also the possibility of buying sugar pumpkins from neighbors that grow these in the backyard, especially if they harvest more than what the household can consume.
Sugar Pumpkin Production & Farming in Texas
Sugar pumpkins grow in Texas, which is fourth in pumpkin production in the US because this plant needs hot weather and sunlight. You may start planting in early May to June. If the sugar pumpkin you are planting needs 120 days to mature, it is best to plant as soon as the threat of frost has passed. Some varieties mature fast, taking as little as 85 days. Soil temperature should be inside the 70-95 F range before planting the seeds.
Make sure the soil drains well. In the High Plains, it is common to grow sugar pumpkins in a variety of types of soil, from sandy loams to clay loams. Peat moss and compost will help you manage the poor drainage of the soil. It is important to be consistent with watering especially when the fruit is developing.
Listed below are the common threats to squashes and pest management control that includes the use of pesticides.
- Aphids – Kill aphids using neem oil, insecticidal soap, or horticultural oil. You can also use the pesticide malathion, which is the most commonly used organophosphate insecticide in the United States, or rotenone, a selective, non-specific insecticide typically used in home gardens for insect control.
- Cucumber Beetles – The use of man-made pesticide carbaryl or Beauveria bassiana is the solution to rid of flea beetles.
- Cutworms – Pesticides such as carbaryl will kill cutworms attacking your spearmint. Pyrethroid insecticides like cyfluthrin and the insecticide permethrin are also useful for this purpose.
- Leafminers – Use spinosad against leafminers.
- Spider mites – To get rid of spider mites, use neem oil and apply it through foliar spraying. It contains azadirachtin which is effective against spider mites. You can also use horticultural oil (which also targets aphids and thrips). Pests die after exposure to horticultural oil due to suffocation since the oil blocks the spiracles through which insects breathe. Another effect of horticultural oils is disrupting the metabolism of insect eggs. Lastly, horticultural oils disrupt the insect’s ability to feed. As a result, the insect starves to death. Using pyrethrin spray is also an effective method against spider mites. Another option is spinosad, a mixture of two chemicals called spinosyn A and spinosyn D typically used to control a wide variety of pests.
- Squash bugs – The use of man-made pesticide carbaryl is the solution to rid of squash bugs.
- Squash vine borers – Use man-made pesticide carbaryl, broad-spectrum, pyrethroid-based insecticides like permethrin, or the pyrethroid insecticide bifenthrin to rid your acorn squash of vine borers.
- Thrips – To kill thrips, there is a wide array of options to choose from: horticultural oil, insecticidal soap, anti-parasite spray spinosad, or pyrethrin pesticides with piperonyl butoxide.
Expect sugar pumpkin to be grown in places where pumpkin is commonly grown. In the US, many states contribute to the production of different kinds of pumpkins. According to USDA ERS, Illinois is at the top of the list of the biggest harvest of pumpkins in the US. Texas is among the top producing states in the US for pumpkins and squash. While sugar pumpkins are not really known as the type grown for commercial production, many small-scale growers grow sugar pumpkins for personal consumption and local sale on farmers markets and farm stands.
Sugar pumpkin is not commonly grown in a large-scale commercial production although many local farmers grow it, sold in small quantities in local farmers markets and farm stands. Expect these to be sold without any type of packaging, primarily because their thick skin and rind already provide it with a layer of protection, keeping the flesh inside safe from any potential contamination while out on display. In some supermarkets or groceries, it is not uncommon to find sugar pumpkins individually wrapped and covered in transparent plastic wrap.
Enjoying Sugar Pumpkins
Sugar pumpkins are eaten in a variety of ways. You can eat sugar pumpkins as a side dish – you can cook sugar pumpkins in olive oil with butter, salt, pepper, and thyme. You can also roast it, cut it into chunks, and use it as an ingredient for salads. You can also make sugar pumpkin soup, or add sugar pumpkin in casseroles, stews, etc.
Whole sugar pumpkin can last at room temperature for three weeks, even longer. Make sure that your storage is cool and dry, and make sure that once you cut it open, refrigerate the remaining sugar pumpkins left uncooked.
Sugar pumpkins are great for cooking because they are small and you can prepare just enough. These are also less fibrous and, as the name suggests, taste very sweet. Sugar pumpkins are creamy however you choose to prepare them. Some like it roasted while others simply steam it. Others enjoy eating sautéed or even pureed sugar pumpkins. Because of their sweet taste, sugar pumpkins go well with other sweet ingredients like honey, molasses, brown sugar, or maple syrup. But don’t be hesitant to use sugar pumpkins for savory dishes as well. Use them with cheese, peppers, or mushrooms, and you’ll make a delicious savory dish, that’s for sure! Want to add herbs and spices? Go ahead. Sugar pumpkins complement the taste of herbs and spices used in cooking, like sage, cilantro, and ginger.
Sugar pumpkins are rich in vitamin A. It also gives the body other essentials like omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin C, potassium, and fiber. Adding sugar pumpkin to your diet is good because it helps improve your eye, cardiovascular, and digestive health. Health and diet professionals also believe that eating sugar pumpkins may help in the prevention of cancer.