Specialty pumpkins growing in popularity

pumpkinPlump orange pumpkins are ripening in the field, scattered on the ground like so many harvest moons. In those same fields, you might also find white pumpkins, green pumpkins, striped pumpkins, miniature pumpkins and a host of other varieties that are growing in popularity. They have names like Cinderella, Cotton Candy and New Moon. Not only are they multi-colored, they are multi-purpose.

Steve Gallmeyer of Gallmeyer Farms in Henrico County grows 27 acres of pumpkins, both traditional and specialty varieties, that he sells wholesale and through a pick-your-own operation.

“Some of the specialty varieties with their odd shapes and odd colors don’t show the effects of an uneven growing season as readily as others,” Gallmeyer said. He noted that the growing season in his area has been “spotty” with a deficit in rainfall, but he’s optimistic about his crop this year. “It’s a big improvement over the very wet growing season of 2013.”

Elsewhere in Virginia, pumpkin growers have seen hot and dry weather followed by cool and wet weather. “Though there have been weather issues, it is looking like a pretty fair crop,” said Tony Banks, a commodity marketing specialist for the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation.

Many of the specialty pumpkins Gallmeyer grows are used for fall decorating, along with gourds. Crafty customers often transform his bottle gourds into birdhouses and even musical maracas.

Gallmeyer said some of the specialty pumpkins can be re-purposed from decorative items into pies. He grows a small pie pumpkin variety as well; the smaller pumpkins tend to be less fibrous than the larger varieties and may have a higher sugar content, he said.

At the upcoming State Fair of Virginia Giant Pumpkin Contest, pumpkin poundage is the primary goal, and the enormous entries will require a forklift instead of a fork. The contest weigh-in will be held at noon on Sept. 27 outside the fair’s Horticulture Pavilion. Some giant varieties of pumpkins can tip the scale at over 1,000 pounds; the current fair record is 1,138 pounds. The contest offers a $100 bonus to the grower who breaks that record. There also will be special awards for the prettiest and the ugliest of the giant pumpkins.

Fair information is available at StateFairVa.org.

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