So, why is the canned stuff so much better than the real thing? "Jack-o'-lantern pumpkins were bred for eye appeal and have an iconic harvest look," says John Ackerman, a third-generation pumpkin farmer in Morton, Illinois, which bills itself as "the Pumpkin Capital of the World". "But they don't have a thick flesh, and they weren't bred for taste." The familiar-looking, bright orange pumpkins you see on windowsills at this time of year belong to one of two predominant showpiece varieties: appalachian or magic lantern. By contrast, the pumpkins most canneries use are of a type called dickinson. Like its bigger cousins, the oblong dickinson belongs to the Cucurbita family of squashes, but it's not much to look at, with its shallow ribs and dull yellow shell. "For cooking, though, it's hard to beat," says Ackerman.