The best kind of pumpkin for baking is the neck pumpkin.
I found out about neck pumpkins from Doug's aunt and uncle in Pennsylvania, Barbara and Dale Graff. While I am a neck pumpkin novice myself, they are neck pumpkin enthusiasts, having had a close and dedicated association with the neck pumpkin for forty years. In 1997 they sent us a neck pumpkin from their garden by way of Barbara's sister who lived here in Alabama but visited in Pennsylvania. That awesome, approximately 40-pound pumpkin adorned our front door steps all fall, and most of the winter, until it became quite sunken and mushy and we tossed it into the garden to finish its decomposing.
The next spring, sure enough, here came some little pumpkin-looking seedlings where we had tossed the neck pumpkin months before. We though it would be fun to grow some but needed to move them to a more distant side of the garden, so I transplanted about three seedlings and we plowed the rest up.
Little did I know what those neck pumpkins had in store for me. They were amazing growers, spreading over a quarter, then half, of our garden -- and we have a large garden.
I can say that neck pumpkins are definitely pumpkins but are shaped differently from the traditional round pumpkin that we all know. If you know what a crook-neck squash or summer squash is, then you have an idea of a neck pumpkin's shape. The neck pumpkin is shaped like those relatives but is many times larger. It's color differs, too, from the bright orange pumpkins we love to decorate with in the fall. The neck pumpkin's color resembles another squash relative, the butternut squash. It's long crook neck curves up and around, about 300 degrees, coming almost full-circle back to the main body of the pumpkin. The neck is about 5" in diameter and is about 2' in length around it's curve. And it is solid pumpkin inside that neck. The entire pumpkin, in fact, is almost solid pumpkin, having only a small seed cavity in its belly. It is a truly amazing vegetable. The vines are fearless of lawn mowers and foot traffic and push out in every direction. The leaves are huge -- about 18" across, creating a raised floor about a foot above the ground, shading their neck pumpkins below.
What an amazing pumpkin, the mighty neck pumpkin! I knew I had to cook them. I took on my first one on the first day of fall, as it happened, in 1998. Early for a pumpkin, even for here, but it's vine had dried up in our August-September drought. I placed it in the oven preparatory to its transformation, and there it baked slowly for 2 1/2 hours while I continued with my yard clean-up. When I returned it was ready for me to assist in it's transformation.
I was not prepared for how much pumpkin pulp I was going to get out of this one vegetable. After removing the skin and cooking it down, and reserving two quarters of the round section to serve as a winter squash vegetable, I had twenty-two cups of pumpkin ... sitting on my stovetop ... all at one time!! I figure that's the equivalent of eleven cans of pumpkin. That first day, I made two pumpkin pies, twelve more that were mixed and ready to pour into pie shells that I froze, two loaves of pumpkin bread, and 3 quart bags of pumpkin -- all from one neck pumpkin.
That was my first one. After that, I did two more, making pumpkin soup and perfecting my pumpkin bread recipe. Many thanks to Doug's dad for helping to eat it along the way.
I have occasionally in the past, seen seeds for sale in a seed catalog here and there, but cannot find any this year. For this reason, I have made some available on eBay from time to time.
Last but not least, you will not want to miss Dale's neck pumpkin story. It's at http://www.betterthanmost.com/goodfolks/familynews/famnews3-old.htm
Now that you have the full scoop on what a neck pumpkin is, how do you use them? Not to disappoint, we have collected several pumpkin recipes that can all use the neck pumpkin.
This page added 1 November 1998 - Last updated 06/27/08 12:48 PM