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Peter Pumpkin eater has plenty of picks down at the patch

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Catherine W. Idzerda
October 6, 2008
— Traditionalists should stick with orange.

Arty types should get the green with the dark brown lines.


And anyone who worships at the altar of Martha Stewart should try something entirely different, such as a collection of blue, pink, tan and red.


We're talking about pumpkins, and local residents find themselves in the lucky position of having enough to pick from, no pun intended. Growers have orange, red, tan, blue, white and multi-colored pumpkins and gourds and they're ready to sell.


It isn't that way all over the state.


"I know a guy with a market in Ixonia who had to buy his pumpkins wholesale," said Roger Hermanson, owner of Hermanson Pumpkin Patch, 127 County N, Edgerton.


Like much of rest of the state, that guy from Ixonia had to deal with a rainy and cold June, a cool July and then drought conditions in August.


Pumpkins are long-season crops that need heat to succeed. Northern growers got hit the hardest.


In late August, the UW-Madison Department of Horticulture "Vegetable Crop Update" didn't sound hopeful about pumpkin prospects. The update noted the department had received a number of concerned calls about pumpkins and squash that weren't ripening.


But Hermanson and other growers said it depended on "where you were."


Hermanson, who has been in business for about 20 years, said he plants 34 varieties on 17 acres. This year he lost 2 acres to flooding, but the crops in the rest of his fields made up for the loss.


Tom Skelly, owner of Skelly's Farm Market, 2713 S. Hayner Road, Janesville, described his pumpkin crop as "great," even though a few of the pumpkins are "still a little bit green."


Emmett Reilly of the Berry Basket & Greenhouse, 4026 N. Henke Road, Milton, said this was the first year he's grown pumpkins, so it's hard for him to compare to other years.


"We didn't get as many as we'd like," Reilly said.


PUMPKIN TIPS

-- Make sure the pumpkin you pick doesn't have any soft spots. Try to keep the stem or the "handle."


-- Wait until three or four days before Halloween to carve your pumpkin. A pumpkin can dry out and collapse quickly, especially if the weather is warm.


-- Wipe the outside and inside of the pumpkin with water with a little bit of bleach in it. This will keep mold from growing on the inside of the pumpkin and will keep the outside from rotting as quickly.


-- Try to keep the pumpkin out of the sunlight.


-- Consider cutting a hole in the bottom of the pumpkin instead of the top. That way you don't have to struggle to light the candle.


Compiled from local growers and carvers.

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