PLANTING THE SEED: I got my start with pumpkins when I was about 5 years old and I found a pumpkinseed and a sunflower seed in my father's toolbox. I planted them and watched them grow, and the fascination never ended. I knew then that when I grew up I wanted to have a pumpkin farm. Now, I grow a little over 30 different varieties, some as small as eight ounces, others as large as 100 pounds. Not all are orange -- there are also blue pumpkins, green, white and red. But culturally I think we are so accustomed to orange pumpkins that the others are neglected.
PETER, PETER PUMPKIN EATER: I'm often asked what pumpkin is best for pie. James Beard, the father of American gastronomy, liked the Blue Hubbard pumpkin because it was so hearty. Blue Hubbards are generally 20 to 30 pounds, so if you decide to use one, you might want to split it with a neighbor.
SMASHING PUMPKINS: Pumpkin chuckin' is where you fire a pumpkin out of an air cannon and see how far it'll go. Although some of my neighboring pumpkin growers have participated in it, I never have. The biggest challenge is that the force of the cannon pulverizes the pumpkin. So in my opinion, the Sweet Meat variety make the best shooting -- they're a light gray-blue, dense and almost perfectly round like a cannonball. Load those babies up and watch them fly! Their seeds are also great for roasting -- they're small but have a nice, nutty flavor.
PESKY VARMINTS!: The best way to keep a squirrel away from a pumpkin is with a firearm -- just kidding! My crop is not too close to a wooded area, so I don't have problems with them, though I know other people do. My biggest problem is deer. I've heard of people using lion urine to scare them off, although I have no idea where they buy it. Others will spray the pumpkins with a pepper spray or leave dirty clothes around their crops. I actually use an electric fence and plant alternative crops like sweet clover or buckwheat nearby in hopes that the deer will be attracted to those instead. This works, but they'll still get into the pumpkins from time to time.
BIBBITY BOBBITY BOO: The Cinderella Pumpkin's proper name is the Rouge Vif d'Estampes. It's a deep orange color. I'm sure if the right person uttered the right words, it would turn into a magic coach. That person has yet to come to my market, but it doesn't mean they aren't out there!
As told to Karen Hart Moore