Pumpkin Crops Look Healthy This Year, But Which Do You Pick?

By Scott Sarvay
By Jason Meyers, Meteorologist

September 26, 2012 Updated Sep 26, 2012 at 5:42 PM EDT

Indiana (Indiana’s NewsCenter) - FORT WAYNE, Ind. (Indiana's NewsCenter) - A hot, dry Summer ruined a lot of crops across the state, but pumpkins were able to take the heat. Overall, the pumpkin crop did well this year with only a few minor hiccups.

First, they'll be showing up on store shelves a little later. Pumpkin seeds are planted in June, giving them just enough time to mature by the end of September. Since we received less than an inch of rain in all of June and the first half of July, those seeds didn't germinate until a month later. On top of being late, the pumpkins may be slightly smaller this year, because of the quick turnaround from germination to harvest.

Mother Nature had it out for the pumpkins a second time earlier this week when temperatures approached freezing, and left most of us with a little frost on the ground. It was just enough to end the growing season for the orange gourds. That means any pumpkins already on the vine will stop growing and begin to turn orange. We won't be seeing any new pumpkins between now and Halloween.

Purdue Extension Plant Pathologist, Dan Egel has the following tips for buying a good pumpkin:

- Run your hand over the pumpkin to make sure there aren't any soft spots. Be sure to knock the dirt off and check carefully because a pumpkin with soft spots would definitely be one to pass on. You don't want that sitting on your porch.

- A healthy pumpkin's stem should be as full and green as possible, rather than thin and brown. A green stem indicates a fresher pumpkin that was likely grown in the area.

- The color of the pumpkin itself, however, is up to the consumer. You can pick the traditional orange but follow the same rules when selecting any of the other ones. Egel said he used to know a little boy who would came in and chose a nice green pumpkin.
- Areas that didn't see a frost are faring better, but pumpkin crops across Indiana and Ohio are doing well despite the lack of rain early in the season. In fact, the dry weather prevented some diseases that have previously plagued pumpkins in wetter years.

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