PLATTSBURGH — When Linda Facteau looks at a pumpkin, she sees more than just fall’s token fruit.
“Pumpkins, to me, have a personality,” said Facteau, produce manager at Rulfs Orchard in Peru.
Numerous varieties of pumpkin exist in the world today, each with their own distinct shape, coloring, size and markings.
Some, like the orange “munchkin,” are small and saucer-shaped, while others are larger and uniformly round like the “Jack-o-Lantern.”
There are white pumpkins, giant pumpkins, pumpkins for pie and even pumpkins with lumps.
And according to Facteau, some appear to be happy, while others just look scary.
Choosing the perfect pumpkin depends largely on whether the fruit is intended for food or decor.
However, regardless of its purpose, it is important that the pumpkin be healthy, according to Sam Dyer, who, together with his wife, Mary Dyer, owns Shields Vegetable Stand in Beekmantown.
“You want to look for a fruit with no sores,” he said. “Anything with a spot on it now is not going to last.”
A pumpkin’s stem is also indicative of its health, Dyer said, so “you want a good solid stem.”
All varieties of the seasonal fruit are edible; however, pie pumpkins tend to work best for cooking, according to Nina Sullivan, owner of Banker Orchards in Plattsburgh.
“They are a more flavorful pumpkin,” she said.
Pie pumpkins are also smaller in size, have thicker flesh and fewer seeds.
The standard pumpkin pie generally requires a two-to-three-pound fruit, Dyer said.
But pie is just one of many tasty treats that can be made from pumpkin; others include doughnuts, cake, cookies, muffins and bread.
In addition, Facteau said, pie pumpkins are the perfect size to be hollowed out and used to serve pumpkin soup or stew.
The seeds of the fruit can also be roasted for a crunchy snack; larger pumpkins are best for this, as they generally contain more seeds.
Larger pumpkins, like the traditional “Jack-o-Lantern,” are also better for carving faces and designs into for Halloween, Sullivan said, because they have thinner walls, making them easier to puncture with a knife.
For those who wish to decorate their pumpkin without carving it, kits of stick-on faces are available.
These are ideal for young children, according to Sullivan, because they don’t require scissors or glue.
“The kids love the stickers,” she said.
Other decorating kits come with jewels, which can be adhered to the pumpkin for a more glamorous look.
Stencils and paint can also be used to create festive images and faces on the fall fruit.
And totem poles can be constructed by sticking a post in the ground and stacking decorated pumpkins onto it.
“Use your imagination,” Sullivan said.
Of course, unaltered pumpkins can be festive and eye catching, as well.
White pumpkins are quite popular this year, according to Facteau.
And pumpkins covered with wart-like lumps, or “lumpy bumpy” pumpkins, as Sullivan calls them, are a unique way to capture the spirit of Halloween.
“Sometimes we find that the uglier the pumpkin, the better it sells,” Dyer said.
MAKE IT LAST
Healthy, uncarved pumpkins purchased as early as September should last until Halloween and possibly beyond, according to Sullivan; however, it’s important to keep them out of the frost.
The fruit can usually handle being exposed to one frost, she said, but more than one will likely cause it to collapse.
Those who wish to carve their pumpkins should do so shortly only before Halloween to ensure they don’t rot before the big night.
Email Ashleigh Livingston: firstname.lastname@example.org