Pumped for Autumn: Pumpkins
As a child, there’s nothing quite like that first brisk hayride to pick a perfectly plump pumpkin. As an adult, the same goes for the success of that first pie — the crisp, buttery crust complementing its rich center.
A functional fruit, pumpkins are packed with nutrients and are impeccable in the kitchen for pies, breads, soups, and stews — not to mention festive as décor. Scoop out its orange-hued innards, and roast the seeds in olive oil and sea salt for a crunchy fall snack.
The winter squash impresses with hundreds of varieties, including Cinderella, a magical French heirloom shaped like the fairy tale carriage; Valenciano, a creamy, white-skinned beauty; and Big Max, one of the larger varieties, easily mature at 135 pounds. There’s also the Fat Jack, Knucklehead, Hubbard, and Hannibal varieties. The latter is perhaps the most popular 18- to 25-pound picking pumpkin, says Bob Bedner, owner of Bedner’s Farm & Greenhouse. “It’s a uniform size, and the yield is superior,” he says. “It’s a nice size Jack-o’-Lantern and the ultimate carving pumpkin.” Like Bedner, Adam Voll, farm manager at Soergel Orchards, shoots for peak harvest time during the first week of October. “For a hearty and solid crop, the growing process can take 70 to 120 days, depending on the size,” he says. He recommends keeping the gourds on the vine, free of blemishes, nicks, and cuts, until the stem is dry. Voll also advises pumpkin pickers “to not be afraid.” “Some of the ugliest, oddball pumpkins, including peanut pumpkins and snake gourds, are good for cooking,” he says. So pour yourself a pumpkin beer (browse our favorites here), and get carving!