Today I wanted to take a look at an industry that isn’t quite what comes to mind when you talk about agriculture. With Halloween coming up, I wanted to talk about the pumpkin industry.
The top six pumpkin producing states are Illinois, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and California. They produce over half of the pumpkins harvested in the US. Illinois is the leading processed pumpkin producing state. They produce more than the other five states combined. The soil and the climate in Illinois are ideal for growing the best pumpkins.
Pumpkins range in size from less than one pound to more than 1,000 pounds. Pie pumpkins range in many sizes, however, the 5- to 10-pound pie pumpkins are most often grown. Pumpkins in the 10- to 25-pound range are primarily used for fall decorations, carved into jack-o-lanterns, but can also be used for processing. Pumpkins above 25 pounds are called giant. Giant pumpkins typically range between 25 to 1,000 pounds in size. The potential size is determined by the variety grown and growing conditions.
Americans seem to be obsessed with pumpkins as soon as the weather turns cold. From pies to lattes, you can’t turn a corner in the grocery store without seeing something orange or pumpkin flavored. This is the time of year when families head to a pumpkin patch or their local store in search of that perfect pumpkin to carve for their doorstep. Pumpkin patches have become a lucrative agritourism business around the US. For the last few years, Shelby has had our own pumpkin patch at the community garden.
America’s passion for pumpkin dates back to Native Americans, who roasted pumpkins over the fire, but also used the vegetable for medicinal purposes, and weaved mats out of its fibers. Pumpkins are also credited with keeping New England settlers alive when they failed at growing wheat and corn. Centuries later, Irish immigrants would start a new pumpkin tradition: carving jack-o-lanterns. In Europe, they used turnips or potatoes to celebrate their version of Halloween, but after arriving in the United States, they discovered it was much easier to carve pumpkins.
These are just a few fun facts about pumpkins you can use when carving pumpkins with your families this week.
Toole County Extension