LUBBOCK — With only about one week to Halloween, the time is running out for pumpkins to come under a jack-o-lantern knife. But growers and horticulturists hope that after the October holiday deadline, pumpkins will be pumpkins — for decorating and eating — through the Thanksgiving season.
“They are art objects,” Dr. Roland Roberts, Texas Agricultural Extension Service horticulturist in Lubbock said of pumpkins grown in the High Plains region.
“Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and they are bought for the beauty they have, not for food.”
Pumpkin enjoys a bit of popularity as a food as people have realized that one serving supplies a day’s worth of vitamin A and only 38 calories for each half cup. But people typically scramble to stores and roadside stands to find pumpkins to display in yards and homes, to express character or a particular mood. All sorts can be found: tall, short, fat, thin, perfectly round, perfectly odd.
“There are a lot of new introductions this year,” noted Roberts.
“The pumpkin breeders are getting creative by coming out with different colors and shapes.”
He said a newer variety, Cinderella, looks like “someone sat on it and squashed it down, but it has a beautiful rosy-orange color. It also makes a good food pumpkin when you get sick of looking at it.
“I’ve noticed that people who have an appreciation for art appreciate pumpkins and how they can be used in various displays,” Roberts added. “But then there are those who say, ‘That’s not what a pumpkin is supposed to look like,’ and they wouldn’t buy the newer types. So, we have a variety to meet the demand.”
He suggested that anyone who wants a pumpkin for either reason exhibit or eating should purchase one soon since the crop is short this season.
“There does seem to be a shortage nationally, but with some good fortune on the Texas High Plains, consumers here in Texas can expect to get some really good pumpkins,” said Dr. Charles Hall, Extension Service horticulture economist. “Prices won’t be exorbitant. They might be slightly higher than normal, but the price should reflect the good quality we are seeing this year.”
Roberts said many of the southern and East Coast pumpkin producing areas suffered from hurricane-related damage, especially excessive moisture at a time in the early fall that led to foliar and fruit disease. Pumpkins in the High Plains region were protected from excessive heat and drought this year, however, because the 3,000-plus acres there are all irrigated, he said.
Growers there are wrapping up a harvest across Floyd, Lubbock, Bailey, Lamb and Hale counties that will pull perhaps 30,000 pounds per acre.
“The harvest is winding down,” Roberts added. “So if a farmer doesn’t have a home for them this week, then they aren’t being sold for Halloween.”
Still, the horticulturist hopes that growers will continue to see the value in promoting the orange globes for their artistic appeal for autumn decorations as well as for fresh Thanksgiving pies, carrying the marketing season beyond the end of October.