When it comes to picking out the perfect pumpkin, well, that's almost as fun as carving out its jagged eyes and squiggly smile. Not to mention pulling out the plethora of seeds that are stuffed into the gooey inside.
Those seeds are worth excavating. After all, we all know how delicious pumpkin seeds are when they are salted and baked. Here's a simple recipe: allrecipes.com/recipe/roasted-pumpkin-seeds/
This year, thousands of families will hit the pumpkin patches in search of finding the perfect carving pumpkin — medium-sized, all orange, good stem, no bruises, cracks or soft spots — you know the drill.
We Floridians don't have to look too far to find a patch. There are plenty to choose from throughout the state. The website, www.pumpkinpatchesandmore.org, has a list of patches that are defined by U.S. states and areas of the states. Central Florida's can be found at: www.pumpkinpatchesandmore.org/FLpeastcentral.php
While you will find plenty of pumpkins at the patches, you'll also find that many of the patches have festivals, entertainment and events to go along with the pumpkin picking.
"We're going to have about 2,000 pumpkins this year," said Cindy Vance, owner of Carousel Party Acres in Fellsmere. "We also have a petting farm and a corn maze that are included in admission. "There are also pony and horse and tractor rides on site. The patch is open through Halloween.
Fruitville Grove, a Farm Fresh Family Market in Sarasota, is also offering its 24th Pumpkin Festival, open on Oct. 20-21 and 27-28.
"This is great family fun for all ages. You can enjoy unique crafters, hayrides, kid's games — like a train ride through Indian Village, along with Alday's BBQ with jumbo turkey legs, freshly popped Randy's Famous Kettle Korn and tons of family activities!" said Kim Elmenani, owner. New this year is the 4-H "Clogging Clovers," who will have a special clogging performance.
Hunsader Farms in Bradenton is celebrating with a Pumpkin Festival, also open on Oct. 20-21 and 27-28. Admission includes hayrides, live music, petting zoo, barnyard playground and more. There is also plenty of food, children's games, a corn maze and much more.
Although you will come across plenty of pumpkins at the patches, weighing a few pounds or less, you won't likely find one as big as the largest recorded on record. According to Guinness World Records, "The heaviest pumpkin weighed 1,810 pounds, 8 ounces and was presented by Chris Stevens at the Stillwater Harvest Fest in Stillwater, Minn., on Oct. 9, 2010. The pumpkin measured 15 feet, 6 inches in circumference."
According to UF, the best varieties to grow here in Florida are: "Howden" and "Jackpot." If you're looking to plant the big ones, try "Big Max or "Big Moon" or "Atlantic Giant." Those may get up to 200 pounds in ideal growing conditions. If you are planting pumpkins next year, keep in mind that most pumpkin varieties need around four months to reach maturity. So if you want them ready for Halloween, seed pumpkins no later than early July.
Many of us pumpkin lovers love pumpkin in our pie, enjoy their tasty seeds and love to carve them out as Jack-O-Lanterns. However, we may not know: Each pumpkin has about 500 seeds, there are 30 different varieties of pumpkins (the most popular carving pumpkins is the "Connecticut Field Pumpkin"), and U.S. growers produce 1.5 billion pounds of pumpkin per year. Pumpkins also are part of the gourd family, which also includes: cucumbers, honeydew melons, cantaloupe, watermelons and zucchini.
So if you head to a local pumpkin patch before Oct. 31, and you find your perfect pumpkin — tall and slender or round and stout — check out these pumpkin carving tips before you dig in: jackson.ifas.ufl.edu/4h/Newsletters/October%202009.pdf
If you go
If you go
Carousel Party Acres "Pumpkin Patch"
15055 93rd St.
Fellsmere, FL 32948
Through Oct. 31
9 a.m.- 6 p.m.
Fruitville Grove "Pumpkin Festival"
7410 Fruitville Road
Sarasota, FL 34240
Oct. 20 & 21, 27 & 28
10:00 a.m.-5 p.m.
Hunsader Farms "Pumpkin Festival"
5500 CR 675
Bradenton, FL 34211
Admission: $8 (Children 12 and younger: free)
Oct. 20 & 21, 27 & 28
9 a.m.-5 p.m.