Central PA Pumpkin Variety Trial Observations
Posted: November 14, 2011
Penn State Cooperative Extension
My yearly pumpkin trial came to a conclusion earlier this month with a two-day harvest. As always, it is a joy to be outside on a cool, sunny day lugging around pumpkins. Probably the most annoying part of this process is chasing down which pumpkin goes to which plot. The vines of some of the tested varieties can run over several plots and it can be maddening at times following those vines as they twist and turn, over and under other nearby unrelated vines. It’s almost like a giant puzzle over an acre.
Overall, my yield was pretty good. Pumpkin harvests, however, varied across the state and region. Dr. Mike Orzolek, vegetable specialist for Penn State, was able to get an industry wide perspective as he interacted with many growers, extension educators, and other out-of-state specialists. “Whereas the western part of the state had an average year, eastern Pennsylvania experienced a down year,” said Orzolek. “The combination of some very hot weather and very wet late summer/early fall conditions led to lower yields. “
He also believes that this down year extended well beyond the Pennsylvania borders. “New York and New Jersey experienced the same wet, fall conditions as eastern PA,” said Orzolek “and everyone knows of the extensive flooding damage that occurred in the New England states, especially New Hampshire, from Tropical Storm Irene.” As a result of reduced yields in the Mid-Atlantic and New England region, consumers may find pumpkins a bit pricier this year than years past.
We looked at 25 large (25 pounds and over) and medium (9-25 pounds) sized varieties that were submitted by seed companies. Over the years, several trends are emerging, based on the submissions. Companies are looking to expand beyond the traditional dark orange carving pumpkin with new and different looks.
Although ‘warty’ pumpkins are nothing new, I am seeing more and more appear in catalogs, stores, and farmers market. Two pumpkins in this category, Bunch O’ Warts and Knucklehead, were looked at. Both had an attractive display of bumps but Knucklehead had a little darker orange skin than Bunch O’ Warts. Bunch O’ Warts weighed in on average at about 26 pounds whereas Knucklehead was slightly smaller at 19 pounds.
Although off color pumpkins will never be as popular as the traditional orange, it will still have a niche in the decorative market. White pumpkins have appeared in our variety trial over the years and this year we looked at one called Moonshine. It was a yellowish-white with a flat round shape that weighed in around 9 pounds.
The other niche that is being targeted is what I call the ‘dual purpose’ pumpkin. Most of your decorative pumpkins are not bred for eating and cooking. Likewise, pumpkins bred for cooking are not the most eye-appealing. ‘Rascal’ and ‘Moonscape’ are two varieties that are decorative and good eating. ‘Rascal’ averaged around 18 pounds with a pinkish-orange color. It also had the deepest ribbing of any variety tested this year. ‘Moonscape’ was a little more pinkish and weighed in at 12 pounds.
Penn State Cooperative Extension - Clinton County
47 Cooperation Lane
Mill Hall, PA 17751-8978
Office: (570) 726-0022
Fax: (570) 726-2237
Horticulture blog: http://keystonegardening.blogspot.com/