Pumpkins ready for carving, cooking, decorating
Pumpkin growers are busy harvesting, and consumers soon will be able to buy or pick pumpkins for carving, cooking and decorating.
Tyler Wegmeyer, who co-owns Wegmeyer Farms in Loudoun County, reported that this year’s crop of pumpkins are good quality. “The sizes are phenomenal,” although yields are down slightly due to abundant rain earlier this season.
Some areas of the state have been soggy much of the pumpkin growing season, while others have experienced dry weather, noted Dr. Allen Straw, a Virginia Cooperative Extension crop specialist in Southwest Virginia. “And due to the recent tropical systems, some growers have experienced late-season disease issues.”
Straw added that many pumpkins produced in Virginia are shipped south toward Florida. “There is some concern about sales in an area devastated by hurricanes,” he remarked.
Wegmeyer isn’t affected, since he sells many of his 85 acres of wholesale pumpkins to retail outlets in Northern Virginia.
“The pumpkin magic is happening as we speak,” he exclaimed. “We are working 24 hours a day right now, but I love growing pumpkins.” He started growing pumpkins in 2002 on 2 acres and sold them at a local farmers’ market. Now, in addition to the wholesale acres, he grows 15 acres of pick-your-own pumpkins.
Pumpkins are a significant part of Virginia agriculture. In 2016, 2,200 acres of pumpkins, valued at $11.2 million, were harvested statewide, according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service.
Straw explained that most pumpkins sold in September are used as decorations. In October, the most popular use is jack o’lanterns.
Wegmeyer noted that about 95 percent of his pumpkins are for jack o’lanterns or home décor. He grows 55 different varieties and this year tried a new one called Blanco. This variety weighs around 10 pounds, is pure white and has a “curvaceous stem,” he explained. “People really seem to like them.”
Straw said there is an interest in specialty varieties. “This includes varieties with warts, different colors and flat pumpkins for stacking.”