You know canned pumpkin?
It's that stuff you buy because you promised to bake the pie for Thanksgiving, but don't wanna go through the million-hour process of skinning, baking, mashing, pureé-ing, and spicing an actual pumpkin.*
*Or doing whatever you do to make pumpkin pie filling. I wouldn't know, I buy the goddamn canned stuff like everyone else.
BUT CANNED PUMPKIN ISN'T REALLY MADE WITH THE ORANGE HALLOWEEN-STYLE PUMPKINS WE KNOW AND LOVE.
That's right, even if the label says "Made with 100% Pumpkin" it's not necessarily made with 100% real jack-o-lantern pumpkins.
So what's in your 100% pumpkin puree if it isn't 100% Halloween pumpkin puree? IT'S SQUASH.
And the USDA is 100% and totally okay with squash invading your canned pumpkin. It's even written in their super fascinating doc (from 1957!) about canned pumpkin and squash regulations.
Well ... technically pumpkins ~are~ a kind of squash. Pumpkins and squash varieties can be so closely related that they're interchangeable, to your taste buds, at least.
Pumpkins are part of the ~herbacious vine~ squash/gourd "Cucurbita" genus, which is part of the bigger squash/gourd "Cucurbitaceae" family which also includes watermelons (!!!), cucumbers (???), and loofahs. (?!?!?!?!?!) (There’s also something called a squirting cucumber but I would leave your safe search on for that one).
Basically, all pumpkins are squash, but not all squash are pumpkins.
In fact, your canned pumpkin mush is likely full of ~winter squash~ varieties like Butternut and Boston Marrow.
Still, if squashes and pumpkins are basically the same thing, why not just use pumpkins?
I asked Wendy Lopez, MS, RD, and Co- Author of 28 Day Plant Powered Healthy Eating Cookbook this question, and she said that "... people use butternut squash and other types for pies because the usual pumpkin isn't very tasty, sweet, or easy to handle in the kitchen." So basically, your traditional Halloween pumpkin is great for carving, but not the best for cooking.