When the calendar turns over to the month of October, leaves start changing colors and it feels as if the entire countryside has been sprinkled with pumpkin spice.
For youngsters, thoughts turn to Halloween, and the time comes to head out to a local pumpkin patch or supermarket in order to pick out the perfect pumpkin for a jack-o-lantern. For Johnson City’s Grace King, only a big pumpkin will do, and she prefers a carved pumpkin to a painted one.
The State of Tennessee has plenty of tips to those setting out in hopes of picking out the perfect pumpkin. Pumpkins and hard squashes are temporary treasures, so it’s important to choose produce that won’t decay before fall’s festivities have passed. Fortunately, it’s easy to spot a good one.
The shape or size of a pumpkin has no bearing on how long it will last. Look for pumpkins with stems that are green, firmly attached, and at least one inch long. Brown, withered stems, stems coming off or absent from the fruit, or stems cut too closely leave pumpkins vulnerable to the elements. If a stem has fallen off it means the pumpkin is already starting to decay. Never pick up or carry a pumpkin by the stem because detaching it affects its longevity.
Inspect the whole pumpkin carefully before buying it. A pumpkin that is withering, moldy, or has soft spots is already decomposing. On the other hand, if a pumpkin still has a touch of green or a few warts, it’s fine. Warts on pumpkins don’t cause any harm to the quality of the fruit, and in fact may be seen as adding character to future Jack O’ Lanterns.
Of course, there is no fresher pumpkin than one picked directly out of the pumpkin patch. To find local farms and farmers markets with pumpkins, you can use the Pick Tennessee mobile app or look online at PickTnproducts.org.
Pick Tennessee Products is a service of the Tennessee Department of Agriculture to help connect farmers directly to their customers. Follow Pick Tennessee on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter for updates about seasonal products and activities.