Holy Gourd! The Great Pumpkin
BY BILL RUBIN, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
Just like Halloween displays popping up in big box retail stores in mid-August, pumpkins in all shapes and sizes are finally available, just ahead of October 31st’s scary day. But before there’s a Halloween celebration, pumpkins are deserving of their own day. Yes indeed, Wednesday, October 26th is National Pumpkin Day. Good Gourd Almighty! Circle it on the calendar.
What about the lowly pumpkin? Friend or foe? Do they bring an economic impact? The details are here:
-Reportedly, eating pumpkins is good for your health: Pumpkins are high in potassium, which has a positive impact on blood pressure. This news pleased the St. Croix Valley’s fast talking economic development guy. Anything for lower BP, he vowed, anything. Pumpkins are full of fiber, what a relief, as well as vitamin C to help reduce the risk of stroke, loss of muscle mass, and reduction of kidney stones.
-Pumpkins taste good (reportedly): Baked, boiled, steamed, or fried, there are many ways to prepare and enjoy pumpkins.
-Fruit or Vegetable: Because of the seeds, pumpkins are considered a fruit, and the average pumpkin has a one cup of them. Pumpkins are 90 percent water.
-History: The oldest evidence of pumpkin seeds goes back to between 7000-5500 B.C. to seeds found in Mexico.
-Pumpkins are grown all over the world and are found in six of the seven continents. You won’t find them in Antarctica, however.
-According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, all states in the U.S. produce pumpkins, but six states produce most of them. Illinois leads the way. An estimated 40 percent of so-called pumpkin acres are usually harvested in the Top Six pumpkin producing states.
-Illinois is on a roll. In 2020, growers in the Land o’ Lincoln increased their acreage and harvested more than twice as many pumpkin acres as any other state. Almost 80 percent of the acres in Illinois produce pumpkins for pie-filling or other processing uses (read: pumpkin puree).
-Yields vary: Illinois grows about 40,000 pounds per acre, while also rans Indiana, Michigan, and Virginia grow about 20,000 pounds per acre.
-The National Retail Federation, the source for all things involving spending, estimates almost 150 million Americans plan on buying pumpkins to make jack-o-lanterns. Inflation has impacted the price of pumpkins, going from $4.83 in 2021 to $5.40 in 2022. Embrace your inner nerd. It’s only 57 cents, but equates to nearly 12 percent.
-The increased price means $804 million will be spent on pumpkins this year, up 13 percent from 2021’s $709 million.
-Pumpkins can fly if they’re launched. Bridgeville, Delaware hosts the World Championship Pumpkin Chunkin’ contest every year in early November. High-tech and low-tech contraptions fire pumpkins into an open 200-acre field. Their world record is 4,694.68 feet. Can the holy grail of one mile or 5,280 feet be far off?
-As recent as October 10, 2022 a grower from Minnesota set a new U.S. record for heaviest pumpkin at a contest in northern California. It weighed 2,560 pounds and beat the previous record by 6 pounds, set just 10 days earlier by an upstate New York grower. The world record is 2,702 pounds from a grower in Italy.
-Cheers: Brewer Samuel Adams makes a Jack-O Pumpkin Ale.
-Get rich scheme for kids: A jack-o-lantern is a way to add value to a pumpkin. Keep looking for neighborhood signs from kids hoping to make a few bucks by carving jack-o-lanterns to consumer specifications.
Here’s to 2022’s Great Pumpkins in the St. Croix Valley.