Fall’s Favorite Fruit

As we prepare for the upcoming holidays, I thought it would be appropriate to pay tribute to the one fruit that receives much attention this time of year – the great pumpkin.

While the U.S. pumpkin market is regarded as limited and seasonal, it is by no means unprofitable. In 2011, pumpkins harvested from 48,500 acres nationwide were valued at $116.5 million.

In 2010, Illinois produced an estimated 427 million pounds of pumpkin. Other top pumpkin-production states include California, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Michigan. According to Census.gov, some of these states each had an estimate of producing more than 100 million pounds of pumpkin.

The Agriculture Marketing Resource Center states that 90 percent of the pumpkins grown in the United States are raised within a 90-mile radius of Peoria, Illinois. The town of Morton, near Peoria, is the self-proclaimed “Pumpkin Capital of the World” and is the location of Libby’s® pumpkin processing plant owned by Nestlé Food Company, which cans more than 85 percent of the world’s pumpkin each year.

Ohio also has its claim to pumpkin fame with the annual Circleville Pumpkin Show that originated in October 1903. This event, which is held to celebrate local agriculture, is considered to be the biggest festival dedicated to pumpkins in the United States. Incidentally, it is taking place now through October 22.

Pumpkin Facts (University of Illinois Extension)
  • Pumpkins originated in Central America
  • Pumpkins are used for feed for animals
  • Most pumpkins are processed into canned pumpkin and canned pie mix
  • The largest pumpkin ever grown weighed 1,140 pounds
  • Pumpkins are 90 percent water and are considered a fruit
  • 80 percent of the pumpkin supply in the United States is available in October
  • The largest pumpkin pie ever made was more than 5 feet in diameter and weighed more than 350 pounds. It consisted of 80 pounds of cooked pumpkin, 36 pounds of sugar, 12 dozen eggs and took six hours to bake.
  • Colonists used to slice off pumpkin tops, remove the seeds and fill the insides with milk, spices and honey and bake in hot ashes. This is the origin of pumpkin pie.
  • Pumpkins were once recommended for removing freckles and curing snakebites
Pumpkins can range in size from less than one pound to more than 1,000 pounds and depending on their size can be used for a variety of things.
  • Miniature-sized pumpkins: Weigh less than 1 pound and are typically used for decorative purposes
  • Pie pumpkins: Range in size, but most varieties are in the 5- to 10-pound category
  • Carving pumpkins: Range between 10- to 25-pounds and are used primarily for jack-o-lanterns, but can also be used for processing
  • Giant pumpkins: Typically range between 25- to 75-pounds in size
Pumpkins are grown primarily for processing with a small percentage grown for ornamental sales at you-pick farms, farmers’ markets and retail stores. For a list of “you-pick” pumpkin farm locations throughout Ohio, visit www.pickyourown.org.

Do you own or have you ever visited a pumpkin farm? Do you have a favorite farm that you and/or your family visits each year?

Photo obtained from: greensandgills.wordpress.com

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