What's in Canned Pumpkin? Not Pumpkins
If you're like any other red-blooded American, you might have many fond memories of pumpkin pie made from canned pumpkin. But what you probably wouldn't have figured was that those little cans of pumpkin gloop are not actually made from pumpkins at all. I know what you're thinking. "How is that possible?" Heck, you might have even done a spit take with your pumpkin spice latte as you read that startling revelation. I apologize if the latter is true, and I pray you didn't get any of your beverage on your cable-knit sweater or, heaven forbid, your UGGs.
So what is canned pumpkin made of it not actual pumpkins? Turns out, it's made from squash. Cucurbita pepo, what we know as a seasonal pumpkin, actually comes in different varieties. We're used to the big, bulbous, orange ones. But they don't really yield as much flavor as other kinds, even if they're the prettiest of the bunch. For that, you've got to look to the Cucurbita moschata, which includes butternut squash under its species. Feel like the canned pumpkin industry pulled a fast one on you? So do I, my friends. But it's all too true.
Yeah. I caught a case of the feels too. And they're not pretty.
Making matters even more complicated, it turns out that Libby's Pure Pumpkin—the country's best-selling canned pumpkin—is made from a proprietary squash varietal called Dickinson squash (not to be confused with the Dickinson College squash team. Go Red Devils!). And try as they might to call this sham of a gourd a pumpkin, its taste profile and appearance are most closely tied to butternut squash. But since the Food and Drug Administration doesn't really dive into the pumpkin vs. squash argument (we do live in a country that almost made pizza a vegetable, after all!), Libby's and other canned pumpkin manufacturers are allowed to classify their product all willy-nilly, duping fall lovers everywhere into eating healthy squash all season long.
So if you're one of the millions who look forward to decorative gourd season, know that knowledge is your best weapon when carving up a pumpkin pie or a jack-o-lantern. I mean, not literally, because you can't cut anything with your thoughts. Trust me, I've tried.