Chicago – Farmers consider extreme weather tolerance during the critical growing season to be acceptable, so it’s unlikely that this fall’s pumpkin harvest will be low.
Pumpkins are typically planted in late spring and early summer and harvested in the fall in growing regions across the country from the Northeast to the West Coast.
Illinois is the largest pumpkin producer in the world, producing over 40% of the nation’s crop as part of a $1 billion-plus commodity.
Agronomists believe the rich soils, generally mild climate and slightly dry conditions of the Prairie State will be a positive year.
“Overall, it’s been a pretty good season now. At the state fair, some of my farmers showed me hundreds of pounds of pumpkins. Now there’s a spotted area with lots of rain. Yes, rain can reduce yields.
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Scavuzzo said the crop was highly susceptible to extreme temperatures and rain, both of which were difficult to obtain. Too much precipitation can cause rot and even disease. On the other end of the spectrum, an extreme lack of rainfall can lead to smaller pumpkins.
According to the Illinois Professional Growers Association, the state produces a large amount of gourds for both processing and ornamental use. Processed pumpkins are usually canned and used in a variety of pastries such as pumpkin pie and donuts.
“80% of Illinois pumpkin production is for processing and about 20% is designated for ornamental use. Ornamental pumpkin operations allow people to come out and pick their own pumpkins. It’s a thing,” said Scavuzzo.
A classic favorite is known as Howden, which is usually bright orange and has a stem that resembles a handle.
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Other top states are typically California, Indiana, Michigan, Texas and Virginia. The US Department of Agriculture reports that growers in these states produce more than 1 billion pounds of the favorite fall fruit.
Agriculture experts believe that even if one region were to go off-season, there would still be plenty of pumpkins to fill grocery stores, and America’s slouch would be less barren.
“If you go now and buy in bulk, there will be a shortage of supply while you process other products, resulting in higher prices. But if you buy at normal rates and times, you should see ample supply. So we don’t create shortages, it’s okay,” Scavuzzo said.
If you must buy pumpkins early, agriculture experts advise holding off carving giant gourds until the October 31st holiday approaches.
The Utah Agricultural Extension Office suggests several ways to extend the life of your jack lantern.
- Cut pumpkin before washing
- Removes internals to reduce areas where fungus can grow
- After carving, the pumpkin is coated with a 10% bleach solution to kill microbes.
- Use petroleum jelly around the cut to slow the drying process