Pennsylvania usually ranks somewhere in the top five every year with the number of acres in pumpkin production. While Illinois is number one in planted pumpkin acreage for the US, almost all of that is for the canned pumpkin market, most of Pennsylvania’s acreage is devoted to the ornamental market. “I think we had somewhere around 6,500 -7,000 acres in pumpkins this year,” said Dr. Mike Orzolek, Vegetable Specialist with Penn State University, “and our growers had a pretty good year”.
To help growers determine what pumpkin varieties grow best in our area, I conduct a variety trial every year with Dr. Orzolek. We typically look at a range of pumpkin sizes from small to large, although there seems to be more and more acreage devoted to medium sized pumpkins.
Yield in terms of fruit numbers and weight is always important but it is the beauty of the future porch decoration that is most important. Although somewhat objective (beauty is in the eye of the beholder) we try to evaluate the pumpkins for color (I like the deep orange), shape, texture (is it deeply ribbed or smooth), and stem quality.
While one could argue about color preference or shape (some like perfectly round pumpkins while others like tall ones), there is very little disagreement on stem issues. A good stem must be green, (brown stems usually indicate some disease issues during the growing season) stout, and strong. People pick pumpkins up by the stem and they need to be able to handle the abuse as they are carried around.
The perceived shift toward more and more acreage for medium pumpkins is reflected in the numbers of mediums in our trial in which seed companies submitted sixteen varieties for us to evaluate. Some were recently released named varieties while others are still numbered and being evaluated by the seed companies for overall performance in our trial and others.
I didn’t need to worry about exercise that week as I figured I picked 1,359 pumpkins at 22, 890 pounds. You also need to figure in the fact that after each pumpkin was picked and placed at the row front; it had to be eventually placed on a scale and removed from the scale, back to the ground. Needless to say, ibuprofen and I were friends for several days.