Are decorative pumpkins and gourds edible?


Jessica writes:

“We just threw out the pumpkins we had on our porch as decoration, and it made me wonder whether we could have eaten them. I bought them at the grocery store after all! 

Can you eat/cook any type of pumpkin? (I had a mix of regular, Cinderella, and maybe Yokohama.) If you can eat them, how long after you put them on your porch will they be edible? I’ve only used canned pumpkin to date, is the process of making your own challenging?”

You can absolutely cook pumpkin the way you would cook any other winter squash. The varieties that are bred primarily for decorative use and Jack-o-lanterns may not be quite as flavorful or might be a bit stringier than pumpkins bred specifically for pies and other culinary uses but they are all edible.

If the pumpkins that were on your porch were still firm and intact with no insect or rodent damage (squirrels always nibble on ours), you can eat them. But I would NOT suggest cooking or eating a pumpkin that has been used as a Jack-o-lantern. Once it’s been carved, it’s a breeding ground for bacteria, mold, not to mention soot from the candle! Those definitely go into the compost.

Pumpkin soup served in the pumpkin is a fun way to use a larger pumpkin. As a matter of fact, my nieces and nephews and I did this for Thanksgiving this year. (You’ll find lots of recipes online)


If pumpkin pie is the goal, be aware that homemade pumpkin puree is often quite a bit wetter than canned pumpkin. Before using it in a pie, you may need to remove some of the extra moisture, either by cooking it down or draining in a sieve.

Here’s a fun and helpful article by Jessica Barlow, listing all the (other) ways that cooking your own pumpkin can go wrong.

3 thoughts on “Are decorative pumpkins and gourds edible?

  1. Pumpkins and gourds can still be edible, as you described here, not to mention tailor made for a number of recipes. Whether it’s pie, soup, or what have you, there’s plenty of variety to be seen.

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