Going for the unique, unusual
FORT DODGE – Orange pumpkins have long reigned as an autumn staple, but in the last few years their place as decoration and displays has been challenged by the rise in popularity of the textured, oddly colored pumpkins and gourds that have appeared in local patches and gardens.
“You can get the regular Jack-o’-lantern pumpkins at any store around here,” said Janine Lynch, of Lynch Farms near Barnum, “but people like the unique and unusual.”
She and her husband have slowly increased the percentage of nontraditional pumpkins they plant in their fields over the past few years in response to how well the pumpkins are received at the Fort Dodge Farmers Market at the Crossroads Mall where they sell their produce all season.
“The majority are used for decorations,” she said. “The kids tend to like the white ones, but kids are funny.
“They end up painting them, covering the whole thing so it no longer matters if it started out as white or orange.”
Warty, textured pumpkins went widespread in 2010, according to seed producers.
Leading the charge were the Knuckleheads, misshaped pumpkins covered in bumps called “warts.”
They were genetically engineered and selectively bred to enhance the blemishes that were once frowned upon.
Producers said the change in opinion about Knuckleheads has been fueled by the desire to create decorations and displays with varied textures, colors and sizes.
They also make it easy to create a scary Jack-o-lantern.
Mary Ann Brown, with Brown Gardens, of Fort Dodge, said the uniquely shaped and alternate-colored pumpkins may be popular, but she and her family still plant the bulk of their patch in traditional orange ones.
After all, those are the majority of what they sell at the farmers market.
However, the Browns still include in what they offer customers a smaller number of white, green and oddly shaped gourds, depending on what seeds are available at the start of the season.
“What’s out there varies,” she said. “Different varieties will appear each year, and how well they do determines whether they stay or go.
“There was one last year that was just full of bumps and really goofy looking, but I didn’t see that particular seed this year.”
The classic pumpkin will prevail, Brown said. People still use the traditional varieties of the orange pumpkins for baking, cooking and carving their Jack-o-lanterns.
It’s just that at the moment, the strange and unusual catch their eye.
Names of the popular varieties of the unusual pumpkins may differ depending on the company that produced the seeds, but the most well-known names include:
- Lumina: White skin over orange flesh.
- Magic minis: Small pumpkins that come in both white and orange; shapes can vary.
- Jarrahdale: Deeply ribbed, with smooth blue-gray skin.
- Rouge vif d’ Etampes: A French heirloom pumpkin that was popular in the 1880s in France; this variety is said to have inspired Cinderella’s coach.
- Porcelain Doll: A squat shape with peachy pink skin.
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