Pumpkins are the ultimate symbol of fall. You can eat them, carve them or simply put them on display as is. Bert Bouwman, farmer and owner of the Twin Cities Harvest Festival and Maze, gives us a couple tips to think of when buying a pumpkin.
1.) Ask yourself what type of pumpkin you want
Are you making a pie or a scary decoration for the porch? Bouwman grows about eight to 10 different varieties of pumpkins of varying sizes and colors.
Some are as big as a small boulder while others are small enough to fit into a child's hand. Some work best in pumpkin pies, others for stews, while others are simply a ledge ornament. He has orange ones, white ones and greenish-blue ones. He even has a pink pumpkin, a new variety with a light pink tinge that's grown just in time for October, which is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Bouwman donates 25 cents of every pink pumpkin sold to breast cancer research.
Bottom line: Ask the seller what each gourd is good for so you can make the right choice.
2.) Make sure you pick a healthy pumpkin that has not been exposed to frost
We've had a few frosty nights so far this fall and frost can be one of a pumpkin's worst enemies.
"The flesh of the pumpkin has a consistency," says Bouwman. "The frost gets in there, disrupts that. Disturbs that and creating ability for mold to get in and that creates a soft spot and that will rot in no time."
Bouwman says feel all the way around a pumpkin for soft spots and make sure the stem is still tightly secured.
3.) Keep an eye on the weather
Once you get your pumpkin home, if you leave it outside you will want to protect it from extreme elements; especially if the pumpkin is carved. If the weather is cool, the pumpkin should be fine. However, really hot and dry conditions tend to cause carved pumpkins to fall apart faster. On the other hand, if the temperature is too cold, your pumpkin is susceptible to frost damage.
"If it’s below 25 degrees then you might want to cover with something or put it inside by the porch or even in your garage," suggests Bouwman.
One final tip: If you want jack-o-lanterns to look their best on Halloween, don't carve them until about four days before.
Friday, October 19, 2012