Friday, October 17, 2008

Today's Pumpkins Not Just Basketballs

Whether you’re planning to carve a Halloween pumpkin or create a fall decoration, chances are pumpkin shopping is on your to-do list.

“The traditional, basketball-sized, orange fruit is still out there, but neither size nor color is an obstacle anymore,” said Terry Kelley, a University of Georgia Cooperative Extension horticulturist. “While orange is still the norm, the market offers white, bluish-gray, buff or even red pumpkins, too.”

If you’re a traditionalist, Kelley recommends the deep burnt orange color of a Magic Lantern or the light orange of an Old Zeb's. If your goal is to carve a jack-o'-lantern, stay in the 8- to 20-pound range.

If you like trying something new and thinking outside the box, why not try a white or blue pumpkin?

The traditional Lumina variety is the standard white pumpkin that grows from 5 to 12 pounds. Cotton Candy is another of similar size.

If you're looking for a mini, Baby Boo is a small, white pumpkin. If you want to go toward the giant side, try Full Moon, one of the newest pumpkins on the market. It is a white-skinned variety that can easily grow to 80 pounds.

Jarrahdale is a grayish blue pumpkin that's deeply ribbed and somewhat flat. Despite its unique outside color, it's just as orange as any jack-o'-lantern on the inside. Most of the white varieties are orange on the inside, too.

Fairytale and Cinderella are flat, scalloped varieties with glossy skin in buckskin and deep orange. Red Eye is almost red and has veins of white running through the red background. One Too Many has the opposite color scheme.

“If you want a behemoth, pick from one of the giant varieties like Dill's Atlantic Giant,” Kelley said. “Finding these fruits from 300 to 600 pounds is not uncommon. The world record is around 1,200 pounds.”

You don't have to stick with orange giants, either. White pumpkins and other varieties range in size from a bushel basket to a small automobile, he said.

For decorating, a plethora of miniature types come in all colors, too, from orange to white to mixed. Kelley says true miniature pumpkins weigh a pound or less.

Gold Dust and Jack-Be-Little are just two of the many miniature varieties that come in orange. Cannonball, Ironman and Li'l Ironsides grow in the 2- to 5-pound range.

There are still more varieties to choose from like the striped minis Li'l Pump-Ke-Mon and Hooligan.

By the time you pick the perfect pumpkin for decorating, it will be time to pick the perfect variety for holiday pie making.

By Sharon Dowdy
University of Georgia

Sharon Dowdy is a news editor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

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