Is Pumpkin a Fruit or Vegetable?

Learn how to categorize your favorite seasonally spiced ingredient.

Pumpkin's versatile flavor is no secret — it can be used in anything from a sweet, airy mousse to a spicy bowl of soup. But is pumpkin a vegetable or a fruit? The mysterious identity of everyone's favorite fall gourd may surprise you.

Pumpkins in wheelbarrow at pumpkin patch
Photo by Getty Images.

Is Pumpkin a Fruit or Vegetable?

Pumpkins are botanically categorized as fruit. They are a part of the Cucurbitaceae family, along with other squash like zucchini and butternut. Fruits grow from the flowering part of the plant and hold seeds in their flesh, so although the pumpkins we see at Halloween aren't naturally sweet, they're fruit just the same.

There are over 100 varieties of pumpkin, ranging from the carnival-friendly Big Max to the Kabocha, a small green gourd treasured for its mild, firm flesh. Pie varieties are often smaller than pumpkins used for carving and have dense, sweet interiors. You can find pumpkins in an enticing array of shades and sizes, with some weighing in at over 500 pounds.

What are the Best Pumpkins for Cooking?

Want to make a prize-winning pumpkin pie? Reach for varieties like New England, Jarrahdale, and Cinderella. These types have a deep flavor that holds up well in desserts and soups. Neck and Long Island Cheese pumpkins have smooth, stringless textures that are also great for baking.

pumpkin pie with whipped cream

Steer clear of large carving varieties that lack flavor and have tough, stringy consistencies —these are best left on the porch for decorative purposes. To guarantee the best tasting pumpkin, look for small, unblemished fruit with well-attached stems. A mature pumpkin will have a hardened rind with no obvious bruising.

How Long Does a Pumpkin Last?

Whole pumpkins generally last around three months if kept in a cool, dry space, with some heirloom varieties holding up for a year before spoiling. A temperature of 50-55° F is ideal. Keep the surface of your pumpkin dry and avoid placing them on concrete floors.

Maintain good air circulation and keep pumpkins away from other ripening fruit to extend their shelf life. Proper storage will allow you plenty of time to safely carve, bake, or puree your pumpkins all season long.


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