MCC Daily Tribune Archive

Become a Pro at Picking a Perfect Pumpkin

Pumpkins are making their way from the vine to farm markets and stands. In Monroe County, more than $2 million of fresh market pumpkins are produced on just over 500 acres every year.

The unusually hot and dry summer weather is expected to keep disease pressure on the crop at a minimum, producing good quality pumpkins. However, yields will be down in terms of quantity and weight due to the summer conditions. Some Rochester area farmers are reporting yield reductions as much as 50 percent while others have reported crop failures, especially on fields that were non-irrigated.

Pumpkins should keep for at least two to three months if they are properly handled before harvest and well cured before storage. The summer’s abundant sunshine has significantly improved the color of much of the pumpkin crop; consequently, expect to find vibrant colors. Prices are expected to range from 25 to 39 cents a pound.  Prices likely will remain stable throughout the season.

Picking the perfect pumpkin can be a challenge – especially when two or more people have different shape and size preferences. Inevitably, someone will need to choose. When giving your expert opinion on the worthiness of a pumpkin, here are a few pointers.

*Pumpkins come in many different shades of orange, such as a dark orange for a sinister looking jack-o-lantern and bright orange for a happy painted face.

*Pumpkins vary in shape – round, short oblong or tall oblong, tend to be either deep ribbed or have a smooth surface, and have a round shoulder or a flat shoulder. The shoulder is the area where the stem is anchored across the top of the pumpkin. A very important part of the pumpkin, the stem should be solid and firmly anchored. A damaged stem may encourage a pumpkin to decay prematurely.

*When looking at a pumpkin try to envision a face and a back to the pumpkin, especially if you plan on carving it. Look at the pumpkin from all sides to make sure that it has a rich and solid orange color over its entire surface, and that there are no signs of decay such as bruises, soft spots, scars or signs of mold.

*Make sure to check the bottom of the pumpkin for decay and to ensure it will sit stable and level once you get it home.

*Always carry a pumpkin by the bottom to decrease risk damage to the stem, and use proper lifting techniques when picking it up.

*Pumpkins are best stored in a cool, dry place prior to carving and displaying them. Try not to store or sit your pumpkins directly on a concrete or brick surface. Whenever possible, put your pumpkin on wood or some other type of stand to promote air movement underneath it.

*Frost is an enemy of pumpkins. Bring pumpkins indoors in the threat of freezing weather.

Bob King
Agriculture and Life Sciences Institute