Archive for Friday, October 23, 1992

ROT SQUASHES FALL PUMPKIN HARVEST

October 23, 1992

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Vine diseases and mold caused by wet weather have cut down on the number of pumpkins available this fall, but area growers say there's still plenty available.

Larry Schaake, whose family operates the largest pumpkin patch in Lawrence, said a higher than usual number of pumpkins grew this year. "It was a pretty decent crop," he said. "But we had trouble with rotting and by the time you sort out the rotten ones, it's about an average crop."

Schaake said he's heard of farmers who had to disc up their whole field because the rotting was so bad. As a result of the lower supply, wholesale prices are up slightly, though they remain the same at his 15-acre patch, he said.

PAUL GESINK, owner of the Maple Leaf Orchard in Baldwin, said his crop also suffered from the moisture. "They don't stand up as well," he said. "The biggest problem is the diseases attack the vine while it's growing."

He said last year's crop was great, but pumpkins were harder to come by two years ago.

"There's been years when they had to go a long way and haul them from out west, but this year, they grew fairly well out here," Gesink said.

Despite the problems caused by excessive moisture, both pumpkin growers expect their supply to meet the demand, but they won't promise a good selection for too much longer.

Schaake said business has increased, something he attributed to the pleasant weather, the public's growing familiarity with the farm, and the other attractions at the pumpkin patch, such as the autumn decorations for sale and the farm animals. Visitors take a hay ride out to the patch, where they pick their own pumpkin from a "sea of orange," he said.

AT THE Maple Leaf Orchard, pumpkins are pre-picked. Customers simply choose their favorites to take home. Gesink said pumpkins sales are steady, but he always looks for customers to flood in as Halloween approaches.

A pumpkin purchased in October most likely will end up a jack o'lantern or a front porch accent. Gesink said few bakers use fresh pumpkins in pies anymore, opting instead for the canned stuff.

The newest use for pumpkins that he's heard of is pumpkin butter, said Gesink. "It's delicious. It tastes like you're spreading pumpkin pie on toast."

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