This time of year, people are beginning to think a lot about pumpkins. At the orchard, we start thinking about pumpkins in the spring. Pumpkins must be planted at the end of May or the first week in June. Planting them too early could yield a pumpkin crop in August, when no one is ready to think about eating or decorating with pumpkins. We also have to make sure we are not harvesting them too early. If you harvest pumpkins and let them sit, decay will set in. When it comes to pumpkins, timing is essential.
We have a plentiful harvest this fall. We devoted even more time and energy than usual to our pumpkins this year, and this advance planning and very cooperative weather yielded an excellent crop. In past years, we have had to limit pumpkin picking to Saturdays, but this year, we are inviting customers to pick pumpkins every day that we are open, Monday through Saturday.
Cool summer weather, like we experienced for much of this summer, is particularly important when it comes to pumpkin production. When it is too hot, the blossoms close and are not as receptive to pollination, so a cooler summer means more of the plants pollinate. Also, with this summer’s sufficient rains, the pumpkins grew larger.
Right now, our Halloween pumpkins range from three-inch pumpkins to several feet around, so customers can select the right pumpkin to match their decorating and carving plans. We have a range of pumpkins available for decor and many new varieties of gourds. A new pumpkin variety called the American Tondo Squash is very popular right now. With its green and yellow vertical stripes and interesting texture, this variety looks good in homes and gardens, and it is also edible.
We devote the most acreage to the carving pumpkins, but we also find that more and more customers are looking for edible pumpkins. Flat pumpkins, such as the Fairytale pumpkin, are very popular right now. The flat pumpkins’ taste is similar to a Hubbard squash, a variety that many companies use in pumpkin purees for pumpkin pie.
As you head to the pumpkin patch, which you can reach by coming to the apple stand, or, on Saturdays, by taking a hay ride, rest assured that it is not hard to pick out a good pumpkin. Because pumpkin stems can be prickly, though, we will come through with pruning shears and cut the pumpkin handles from the vine, so that pumpkin picking is mostly a matter of selecting the pumpkins you want. Look for healthy green handles. You don’t want a pumpkin that is brown and dried down because that means the pumpkin won’t last long. To check that the pumpkin is fully ripe, drum on it lightly and listen for a hollow sound. Also, if the pumpkin’s skin is hard when you press on it and almost feels like a shell, it is ripe.
There is also a bountiful supply of pumpkins in our farm market, in the garden center area. You can find pumpkins of every size, shape and color, along with plenty of decorative gourds.
While you are in the market or the pick-your-own pumpkin area, be sure to bring a camera. We have launched this year’s photo contest with a December 15 deadline for submissions, and the pumpkin patch and farm market offer picturesque settings to capture all the fun you and your family will have as you experience the orchard this fall.