Here's Why Patience Is Key When Picking Out A Pumpkin, According To Experts
No need to rush to the patch.
Gather ‘round everyone because I have an important announcement to make: Before you know it, the pumpkins will be here! Whether you frolic through a patch or fill your grocery cart, having a fresh pumpkin in your home just makes it feel like fall. But knowing the best time to go pumpkin picking is the key to creating masterpiece jack-o-lanterns that won’t end up looking like rotting flesh on your front porch in a week’s time.
When does pumpkin picking start?
Pumpkins aren't just the quintessential symbol of fall — they're also a big business. An estimated 147 million Americans, or about 44% of the population, are expected to purchase a pumpkin during the each fall season, according to a report from Finder.com. At an average cost of $4.83 per pumpkin in 2021, that’s a major chunk of change to be made. But all that money will be for naught if you don't consider when you do your purchasing (and carving).
Pumpkin picking around the country obviously varies based on the schedule of independent businesses, and you’ll have to check with your local farms and pumpkin patches to know for sure when you can get your gourds. For the most part, though, pumpkin picking tends to begin in mid- to late September, with some places waiting as long as October 1 to fully open to the public during the festive season. Either way, you’ll have plenty of time to snag some pumpkins if you want them this Halloween.
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When to buy pumpkins for Halloween
Come September, you can definitely find me in line for a steamy pumpkin spice beverage, but when it comes to purchasing actual pumpkins, it’s actually best to wait a bit further into spooky season. From carving to tablescaping, decorating with pumpkins is peak fall, but timing is everything. Experts agree that even if that pumpkin fever hits you earlier than it usually does myself and you just can't wait until October to buy yours, you should be OK.
In speaking with pumpkin experts (yes, there are experts), it seems pumpkins can actually last for quite some time, provided you take care of them properly. "Pumpkins will last eight weeks in a controlled environment (not exposed to direct sunlight or rain),” Jade Egger from The Pumpkin Patch, a third generation family farm that practices sustainable agriculture on Sauvie Island, Oregon, tells Romper. (If you time it right, you can double your Halloween pumpkins as Thanksgiving harvest decorations.)
Though your kiddos might start screaming at you to stop everything and load up on gourds the second they see all those pumpkin patches pop up around town, patience is a virtue you may want to instill in them when it comes to picking the right one. Unless, of course, you enjoy racing around town the night before Halloween scouring for another one because yours has turned into a science experiment on your front porch.
How long does a pumpkin patch last?
If you wait too long, however, supply may be the bigger issue. Even though the pumpkin patch will likely still be around for fun festivities until the end of the month, if not into November, you might have a hard time finding an actual pumpkin to take home. "By the third weekend in October, our patch is pretty picked over. We suggest the first two weeks in October for picking," Egger tells Romper. Another pro-tip from Egger is to try and shop during the week to avoid the weekend crowds and long lines for the hay rides, which you know your kids are going to beg you to do.
When should you carve your pumpkin?
Carving is an entirely different matter when it comes to timing. "Carved pumpkins break down extremely fast,” Egger explains. “We would suggest carving your pumpkin three to five days prior to Halloween." Did you hear that? Do not rush the carving!
But what if you don't want to carve your pumpkin? If baking, displaying, or decorating your pumpkins is more your speed, Suzannah Underwood at Moorpark, California's popular Underwood Family Farms has a few tips for which pumpkins to pick for these particular activities. "Sugar baby pumpkins are best for baking,” Underwood tells Romper. “They can also be painted on, but the skins are very thick, so they make it difficult to carve."
Underwood also encourages people to "step outside of your comfort zone and try different kinds of pumpkins other than the traditional jack-o’-lantern. Cinderellas, Aladdins, Ghost — white — pumpkins and even squash can make for great decorations."
Whether you are looking for that one perfect pumpkin, or a plethora of them to fulfill all your fall dreams, with a little care and the right timing you'll be a pumpkin picking pro quicker than you can say "trick-or-treat."
Jade Egger, The Pumpkin Patch
Suzannah Underwood, Underwood Family Farms
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