They all look the same, lounging in the field. But, they were bred for different purposes, so buyer beware...
Jack O’Lanterns were hybridized to ward off evil spirits and provide a riotous good time when you steal them from the neighbor's porch and smash 'em in the street.
Heirloom Variety Pie Pumpkins are prized for their firm texture and sweet flavor. (Jacks are bland and watery.) The best pie varieties are Small Sugar, Winter Luxury and Rouge Vif d'Etampes.
If you're going to all the trouble* of making a pumpkin pie from scratch, you're obviously a romantic. So, purchase a Rouge Vif d'Etampes. It was the prototype for Cinderella's carriage and is sometimes sold as the Cinderella Pumpkin.
But, that means the time to make your pie just went from 4 hours to 4 months because you might have to grow this pumpkin yourself. I’ve never seen a supermarket sell anything but Small Sugars, though these are quite tasty, too.
Pie Pumpkins are good for more than just pie. Click here for a fabulous Pumpkin Cheesecake recipe with gingersnap cookie and pecan crust!
* Canned pumpkin purée is one of the few items where canned product quality is about equal to fresh - though I've found NO documented cases where a can of pumpkin purée warded off evil spirits with any success.
* Rouge Vif d'Etampes means Deep, Red Pumpkin - which is a little misleading, since it's red/orange. Oh, how the French love to toy with anyone who can't speak the language...
* Buy seeds from Burpee - they invented this pumpkin, back in 1883.