Steve Reiners, professor of horticulture at Cornell University and a New York State vegetable industry expert, says the pumpkin crop this season is optimal due to the dry, warm weather throughout September. He also shares advice on how to pick the perfect pumpkin for the Halloween season.
“When it comes to growing pumpkins in New York, every year is a challenge. Two years ago we had nothing but rain and last year a severe drought. In 2017, we had both, with spring plantings delayed in many locations due to the wet spring. The season could have been a disaster if not for several weeks of warm, dry weather that helped ripen the crop in September. In addition, the lack of rain has minimized pumpkin diseases and the warm sunny temperatures have resulted in good size and an excellent, deep orange color.
“As far as selection, you can choose from tiny pumpkins that weigh a quarter pound to giants that come in well over 100. Whatever size you choose, look for ones that have a hard, sturdy stem. A soft stem may indicate a pumpkin prone to rotting. Hard, dry bruises on the pumpkin that have callused over are fine, but stay away from fruits that have soft spots. A pumpkin will continue to ripen once harvested, so it’s fine to choose one that is not fully ripe. But even green ones will make excellent, scary witch faces.
“A pumpkin bought now will easily last through Halloween and will likely be good through Thanksgiving. But that’s only if you don’t cut them open to make a Jack-o-Lantern. Once cut, the pumpkin will soften and eventually rot within about a week. So, no carving until we get closer to Halloween.”