When you think of pumpkins, the bright orange variety most likely comes to mind - the kind you cut for Halloween.
Most people don't realize there are hundreds of varieties of pumpkins in many colors, textures and tastes, said Mike Mayfield, owner/operator of Mayfield Farm and Nursery. Some are ideal for pies, while others make perfect jack-o'-lanterns.
Each year, his Athens, Tenn., farm sells an average of 5,000 to 6,000 pumpkins for cooking and up to 4,000 for jack-o'-lanterns, he said.
Mayfield offers the following tips on growing pumpkins for eating or carving.
1. Plant at the right time. Pumpkins take from 85 to 110 days to grow, Mayfield said. The best pumpkin season in Tennessee begins in mid-June. "Nobody wants a pumpkin until Halloween, so when you plant in June, they'll come in around the first of October. The goal is to have all your pumpkins cut by the 16th of October. The worst thing for a farmer is to have a field full of pumpkins in late October."
2. Water the pumpkins generously after planting. "They need water early but not a lot. If they're watered early, they'll still make a decent pumpkin if they don't get a lot of water later on. A problem we had this year with pumpkins was the weather. It was so hot that it caused some of the flowers to abort, and when you lose the flower, you lose the fruit."
3. Make sure your soil is rich. Pumpkins need a lot of nutrients, but if you have good soil, there's no need to treat it before planting the seeds.
4. Try Gold Medal and Phat Jack pumpkins if you want jack-o'-lanterns. "The key for getting a good jack-o'-lantern is getting a good stem. The shape is important, but you need the stem, not just for grabbing but also for appearance."
5. Try Hybrid Pam and Cinderella for the best pies. Both yield good pumpkin puree.
DID YOU KNOW?
Cinderella pumpkins (the silvery ones here) are a French heirloom variety named for their resemblance to Cinderella's carriage.
Source: allabout pumpkins.com