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Best pumpkins to grow for Halloween lantern carving

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Be the star of Halloween by growing your own pumpkin next year
Be the star of Halloween by growing your own pumpkin next year

Grow next year’s lanterns – why not try white or warty pumpkins?

Traditional bagie lantern made out of a hollowed-out turnip (or swede or rutabaga depending on where you come from)
Traditional bagie lantern made out of a hollowed-out turnip (or swede or rutabaga depending on where you come from)

I’m not a huge fan of US-style pumpkins which have killed off our traditional North East turnips (swedes to southerners) also known up here as bagie lanterns.

However, they are a nightmare to carve, usually ending in real blood spilt and the smell of burning turnip and candlewax is once smelled, never forgotten.

Pumpkins are much easier, the flesh is actually edible, and they do look much better. With that in mind, I’ve sought out the best carving pumpkins – the Jack o’ Lantern types – you can grow for next Halloween – not just traditional orange but some ghostly white and warty varieties as well.

Bear in mind some of these varieties will be out of stock in autumn, as you won’t be planting until spring.

Huge Jack o’ Lantern pumpkins (over 20lb/9kg)

Big Max: Traditional heirloom variety widely grown in the USA. Great for cooking, roasting the seeds and carving. Fruits can weigh up to 45kg. 15 seeds, 99p, www.seedparade.co.uk

Early King: Large dark orange round fruits with strong handles, up to 12kg in size. Intermediate resistance to powdery mildew. 15 seeds, £1.59, www.simplyseed.co.uk

Expert F1: Large, round to slightly broad pumpkins with a deep orange colour. They can be left to produce fruits weighing up to 12kg or harvested and ripened earlier to produce smaller pumpkins. 15 seeds, £1.59, www.simplyseed.co.uk

Large Jack o’ Lantern pumpkins (10lb/4.5kg to 22lb/10kg)

Cargo F1: British bred with resistance to powdery mildew, 6-10kg/13-22lb fruits with tasty flesh. 10 seeds, £2.39, www.dtbrownseeds.co.uk

Charmant: PMR F1: Bright orange, rounded fruit, approximately 6-8kg in weight on compact semi-vining plants that display a resistance to powdery mildew. 10 seeds, £3.05, www.mr-fothergills.co.uk

Connecticut Field: USA heirloom variety, grown since the 17th century – the original Halloween pumpkin. Fruits weighing up to 10kg with bright orange skin and crispy delicious orange flesh. The flat bottom makes it easy to carve. 15 seeds, 99p, www.seedparade.co.uk

Racer: An early maturing variety with deep orange fruits weighing 5-7kg (11-15lb). Very good flavour and can be stored for several weeks in a cool dry place. 10 seeds, £2.80, www.mr-fothergills.co.uk

Medium Jack o’ Lantern pumpkins (under 10lb or 4.5kg)

Becky F1: Medium-sized orange fruit, great for cooking or carving. 20 seeds, £2.79, www.suttons.co.uk

Evergold: British bred, fruits appear golden from the start, turning to deep orange and weighing about 4kg (9lb) when mature. The yellow gene can cause the first true leaves to turn yellow in cold temperatures. 6 seeds, £2.69, www.thompson-morgan.com

Halloween: Perfect for lanterns or for pumpkin pie. They will store until Christmas in a cool, dry place. 8 seeds, £1.99, www.unwins.co.uk

Jack in the Box: The unusually long ‘handles’ are great for carrying lanterns. If left intact, the handle gives it a long storage period.  Fruits average about 2kg each and the flesh is wonderful for soups, casseroles and pies. 10 seeds, £2.39, www.dtbrownseeds.co.uk

Jack of all Trades: Each 4kg (9lb) orange fruit has a flat base and a deep, rounded shape. The sweet, orange flesh makes delicious pumpkin pie and soup. Height: 45cm (18″). Spread: 200cm (79″). £2.49, 10 seeds, www.thompson-morgan.com

New England Pie: The 2kg (4.5lb) fruits are an ideal size for carving and the sweet orange flesh is delicious in soups or pies. 20 seeds, £2.80, www.mr-fothergills.co.uk

Orbit F1: A semi-bush variety suited to small spaces. The bright orange, quick maturing, fruit are delicious to eat, weighing 6-8lb and store well. 10 seeds, £2.19, www.dobies.co.uk

Paintball F1: Smooth, uniform rich orange fruits of between 2-4kg. Semi-bush variety is compact and early maturing. 6 seeds, £1.99, www.unwins.co.uk

Pot of Gold: A British-bred variety that ripens early with fruits of 3-4kg (6½-9lb). Compact variety for small gardens or container-growing. 6 seeds, £2.49, www.unwins.co.uk

Pudsey: 30p from each packet sold will benefit BBC Children in Need, Sweet tasting orange flesh, great for pies and carving. 100 seeds, £1.99, www.mr-fothergills.co.uk

Small Sugar: Trailing, heirloom mini pumpkin. Sweet bright yellow flesh is for soups and pies. Deep orange, slightly ribbed skin, growing to a maximum of 3kg. 15 seeds, 99p, www.seedparade.co.uk

Spellbound F1: Semi-bush plants produce bright orange fruit weighing up to 3.5kg (8lb) each. The flesh is firm and tasty. 11 seeds, £1.99, www.marshalls-seeds.co.uk

Triple Treat: A bright orange pumpkin that is perfect for carving, has ‘naked’ seeds that can be dried and eaten as a snack and the orange flesh is delicious in pies and soups. The medium-sized fruit weigh in at about 3kg. 10 seeds, £2.20, www.seaspringseeds.co.uk

Winter Luxury Pumpkin: Super-early with a particularly good flavour, averaging about 2kg (4lb), orange with a slight netting. It will store until Christmas. 12 seed £ 2.41, www.realseeds.co.uk

Pumpkin Snowman. Picture; Chiltern Seeds
Pumpkin Snowman. Picture; Chiltern Seeds

White pumpkins

Polar Bear F1: Ghost-white fruit that remain white with age, weighing up 20–25kg (44-55lb) with yellow-orange flesh. Best grown in raised beds or large containers with plenty of rich, loamy soil. 8 seeds, £2.69, www.marshalls-seeds.co.uk

Snowman: Smooth, snow-white skin with yellow/orange flesh, fruit 4-6lb,  £1.95, www.chilternseeds.co.uk

White Casper: 15lb white pumpkins with less blueing than any other variety. The flesh is also very sweet and it is excellent for carving or painting. 10 seeds, 99p, www.premierseedsdirect.com

Warty pumpkins

Freaky Tom: Heavily warted pumpkin, weighing 5-6kg. Perfect for carving and stores well. 5 seeds, £2.62, www.jungleseeds.co.uk

Goosebumps: Unusual warty skin, producing fruits weighing 3-6kg. 6 seeds, £2, www.kingsseeds.com

Knuckle Head F1: Upright deep orange oval fruits with distinctive ‘warts’ and strong handles, approximately 5-7kg in size. Medium vine habit, so suitable for smaller growing areas. 10 seeds, £1.59, www.simplyseed.co.uk

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Mandy Watson is a freelance journalist and an incurable plantaholic. MandyCanUDigIt grew from the tiny seed of a Twitter account into the rainforest of information you see before you. Gardening columnist for the Sunderland Echo, Shields Gazette and Hartlepool Mail and editor of the Teesdale Mercury Magazine. Attracted by anything rebellious, exotic and nerdy, even after all these years. Passionate about northern England and gardens everywhere. Falls over a lot.

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