Issue: October 2005

Pumpkins Flavor October Festivities

Gardeners can liven up Halloween festivities with 300-pound jack-o‚-lanterns and French-fried pumpkin blossoms.

Like other types of squash, pumpkins are native to the Western Hemisphere and they come in many different shapes and sizes.

Dill's Atlantic Giant‚ produces fruits up to 200 to 300 pounds. In contrast, decorative Munchkins‚ grow only 3 to 4 inches wide. Wee-B-Little is about the size of a baseball, with smooth bright orange skin that can be painted.

For an extra large jack-o‚-lantern, try the 40-pound Howden Biggie‚ an upright, uniform, globe-shaped pumpkin with dark orange thick flesh. The white skin of Lumina is truly spooky. These 10-15 pound globe-shaped beauties have orange flesh, which makes an interesting contrast when carved.

Kakai is a specialty pumpkin that weighs 5 to 8 pounds and has black stripes. Hollow the fruit out for carving and save the hull-less seed to roast as a healthy snack. The gloomy slate-gray skin of Jarrahdale makes for scary jack-o'-lanterns. Its medium-sweet orange flesh makes a tasty pie.

Harvest pumpkins before frost, or after one or two light frosts. A hard freeze can damage the skin. Remove fruit from the vine with loppers, leaving a one- to two-inch stem to serve as a handle for the jack-o'-lantern lid. To keep pumpkins fresher longer, do not break off the stem or damage the fruit. To toughen skin, allow pumpkins to cure for a few days in a protected location.

Most pumpkins are a good source of vitamin A. Male pumpkin blossoms can be dipped in egg batter and fried or sautéed in butter.

With pumpkins, male and female flowers occur on the same plant. As there are generally more male flowers than female, limited harvesting of the male ones will not affect pollination.

To make uniform jack-o'-lantern faces, try folding in half a piece of paper the same size as pumpkins. Cut out one eye, half a nose and half a mouth along the folded edge of the paper. Unfold the paper to check the design. If satisfied, place the pattern over the pumpkin and trace out the eyes, nose and mouth using a felt-tipped pen. Cut out the lid, scoop out seed and then cut out the face with a sharp knife or hack saw blade. Cut the lid at an angle so it doesn't fall inside the hollowed-out fruit.

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For more gardening information, visit New Mexico State University's Cooperative Extension Service publications world wide web site at

George W. Dickerson, Ph.D., is is a horticulturist with New Mexico State University's Cooperative Extension Service. New Mexico State University is an equal opportunity/affirmative action employer and educator.