How to Pick the Perfect Pumpkin

How to Pick the Perfect Pumpkin

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September is a prime harvest month, with the last batch of summer produce hitting the market. Corn is about done, fresh tomatoes will soon be a thing of the past and the fruit pickings are becoming thin.

Pumpkins, gourds and other Cucubirta are now in abundance, having ripened to the point of picking throughout much of the United States. That’s great news for people who prize these plants for cooking, baking and, of course, seasonal harvest displays including for Halloween and Thanksgiving.

When it comes to finding pumpkins you have several choices for finding the perfect pumpkin including:

Straight from the patch — What better way to find a pumpkin than to visit your local pumpkin farm to pick your own? Some farms leave their pumpkins attached to the vine while other take vines away and let you pick what you want right from the ground. The pumpkin patch advantage is that you can teach young children how pumpkins are grown. The disadvantage is that many of these farms charge a premium for you to pick a pumpkin, enjoy a “free” hayride or to check out a seasonal display.

At the farmer’s market — Our family has had a lot of success in recent years finding the perfect pumpkin at the state farmer’s market. Not just one farmer is present mind you, rather more than a dozen farmers are selling pumpkins of every size, shape and color imaginable. A great way to compare prices although, suspiciously, those prices are similar from one stand to the next. Farmer’s markets are good places to find apples, decorative corn and hay too.

The local green grocer — Not everyone has the time to hit the pumpkin patch or farmer’s market, but you do have the time to visit your local supermarket. Some stores make a point to carry all things autumn, understanding that having a fresh supply of pumpkins, gourds, apples and the like on hand will bring you back for more. Our local Trader Joe’s is carrying big pumpkins and gourds, selling the former for $3.49 which is about 50 percent less than what we’d pay at the pumpkin patch and cheaper than the farmer’s market.

Your local charity — Churches, scouts and other civic organizations often host pumpkin sales. Surprisingly, the prices at these places aren’t oftentimes better than what you will find elsewhere other than at the grocery store. Of course, if you have your eyes set on an already painted or carved pumpkin, then you’ll pay for that artistic privilege. Still, you can benefit a favorite charity by patronizing their store.

Once you find a pumpkin you like, examine it closely for signs of discoloring, uneven growth or a dried out stem. You want your pumpkin to last long enough to beautify your display or at least make it into stirring bowl for a delicious pumpkin pie or bread.

Resources

University of Illinois Extension: Pumpkin Recipes

Michigan Department of Agriculture: Pumpkin Patches, Corn Mazes and More: Michigan’s Harvest of Plenty Beckons

Photo Credit: Christa Richert

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Categories: Consumer Tips

About Author

Matthew C. Keegan

Matt Keegan is a freelance writer and editor as well as publisher of "Matt's Musings", his personal blog. Matt covers campus, consumer, business and financial topics on various websites and blogs, and has been published in the "Houston Chronicle", "Sam's Club Magazine" and "Wisconsin Golfer".