Without a doubt, fall is a beautiful time of year in Wisconsin. Driving around the countryside, vibrant colors are everywhere, from the trees donning beautiful shades of red, orange and yellow, to the crimson apples growing in orchards all around, to the bright orange pumpkins sprinkled around in pumpkin patches and roadside stands.
Those pumpkins can bring families together at the kitchen table, as they work to scoop out the insides and carve a masterpiece to display for all to see. With Halloween upon us, and Thanksgiving just around the corner, thousands of pumpkins have made their way into homes and onto front steps and porches all across Wisconsin. But have you ever stopped to think just how special this piece of Wisconsin agriculture really is?
The growing season for this orange fruit begins in May when nearly 1,000 pumpkin growers throughout Wisconsin plant the seeds in hopes for a bountiful harvest in fall. A lot of the growers don’t use machines, but rather plant by hand, spreading seeds about a foot apart. When the blossoms begin to develop, typically in late June, growers rely on bees for pollination to help with a bigger and better crop.
Just like so many other sectors of agriculture, the goal of each pumpkin grower is a bit different, based on their operation. Some may want small pumpkins to be sold for decoration; others might strive to grow that perfect carving pumpkin; still, others might have hopes of growing the biggest pumpkin Wisconsin has ever seen for a giant pumpkin weigh off.
These orange gourds are very nutritious and a healthy choice. Their bright orange color signifies that they are high in beta-carotene, which, along with Vitamin A, aids in vision. Pumpkins are also a good source of fiber, potassium, vitamins C and E and iron.
The options are really endless when it comes to cooking with pumpkins. They can be used to make pies, breads and other baked goods, soups and more. Just one large pumpkin has enough meat to bake up to forty pies. Even the seeds can be used! For an easy and delicious snack, clean the seeds, add a few drops of cooking oil and spread them on a cookie sheet baking at 375° for 45 minutes, and you’ve created a tasty and healthy fall treat.
The next time you’re driving around Wisconsin’s beautiful fall countryside, take some time to stop at a pumpkin farm. While you are there, you may even be able to enjoy a hayride, navigate a corn maze or sip some hot apple cider at one of Wisconsin’s many agri-tourism sites. Buying pumpkins from local farms, roadside stands and farmers markets is important as it supports our farmers and food processors, while keeping money in our communities and local economy. Today and every day, our state’s pumpkin growers work hard to grow that perfect pumpkin for us to enjoy.