Despite challenging weather, pumpkins are aplenty
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Consumers should not have any problems finding the right pumpkin despite a wet spring followed by late-summer hot and dry weather.
While the exceptionally dry weather in Indiana since August has hurt other crops, Purdue University plant pathologist Dan Egel said it probably has been good for pumpkins. Lack of rain has allowed the fruit to mature in the field without added disease pressure promoted by wet conditions.
"The pumpkin crops I have seen this year have been average to above average in size, quantity and quality," Egel said. "There have been disease problems aggravated by a wet July, but not all growers were affected."
Powdery mildew, bacterial spot, phytophthora fruit rot and other fruit rots seem to show up every year. This year, bacterial spot of pumpkin caused the most problems, but it didn't affect all growers, Egel said.
The wet spring delayed planting, especially in the middle of the state, said Extension horticulture specialist Liz Maynard. High temperatures followed and coincided with female flower development and fruit set in some fields, which can reduce the number of flowers that bloom and ultimately reduce fruit set.
"Weather was a big challenge for pumpkin growers this year," Maynard said.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's 2007 Census, Indiana grows 3,231 acres of pumpkins on 450 farms for the fresh market, making it one of the top 10 states in fresh-market pumpkin production.
Maynard offered the following purchasing tips for consumers looking to take advantage of the state's fall pumpkin harvest:
* Choose pumpkins that are fully mature, meaning the fruit is completely orange and the rind is tough.
* Make sure the pumpkin is solid and has no soft spots or unhealed wounds in the rind.
* Select a pumpkin with a healthy stem that is firmly attached. The stem should be solid, not shriveled. Check that the stem is attached by inspecting it - not by lifting the pumpkin by the stem.
* For jack-o-lanterns, avoid hard-shell pumpkin varieties because they are much harder to carve.
Many consumers look for pumpkins not to carve, but to eat.
"If the pumpkin will be used for eating, I would recommend selecting a pie pumpkin and, ideally, talking with the producer to find out whether or not it is a variety known to be good for eating," Maynard said.
For more information about autumn produce visit https://mdc.itap.purdue.edu/item.asp?itemID=18888
More information about the impact of weather on the 2010 pumpkin growing season is available from the Vegetable Crops Hotline in issues 525 and 529 at http://www.btny.purdue.edu/pubs/vegcrop/index2010.html
Writer: Jeanne Gibson, 765-496-7481, email@example.com
Sources: Liz Maynard, 219-785-5673, firstname.lastname@example.org
Dan Egel, 812-886-0198, email@example.com