Is it a vegetable, a weird looking fruit or a blank canvas for artists?
Turns out the pumpkin can be considered all of the above. And in October, it is coveted by kids, sculptors, farmers, facialists and gourmands.
This month, the world record for pumpkin size was broken. Big enough to cart Cinderella and her entourage around the Valley, it weighed in at 2,009 pounds and grew as much as 35 pounds a day in mid-August.
Not every gardener has visions of growing the Hummer of pumpkins in their small yards, but it’s still quite a magical sight to put down plain white seeds along a driveway or on a small mound near a fence in summer and many honeybee pollinators later be the witness to a beautiful yellow flower on the vine turn into an orange orb.
Pumpkin is a squash, only harder and with a sturdier stem. It occupies the same genus as gourds in the Cucurbita family. Technically speaking, the pumpkin is a fruit because it is a fleshy plant, has seeds, and comes from a flower. But then again The Farmer’s Almanac will classify it a vegetable. In any event, it wants well-drained soil and lots of sun. Condo owners can try their hand at growing pumpkins in big 5 to 10 gallon buckets. And small vine varieties can be trained up a trellis.
IT’S NOT JUST A SIMPLE JACK O’ LANTERN ANYMORE
The tradition of carving for Halloween started in Scotland and Ireland where turnips were used, and in England where they carved out the beet. The idea was to leave a lighted lantern on the doorstep to ward off evil spirits and the undead. In the US, carving pumpkins became popular because they were readily available, bigger and easier to gouge. The orange Connecticut Field Pumpkin, weighing in between 6-20 pounds, is still the species most used for Jack O'Lanterns.
But nowadays Halloween has become such an event that everyone has souped-up their pumpkin designs with specialty colors, stencils, and power tools. Pimped out pumpkins can be seen haunting the doorsteps throughout the Valley.
Extreme pumpkin artists use rotary tools, drill bits and drywall saws to achieve the pumpkinmost vision. Intricate stencil artists have carved everything from Jack Nichloson’s freak out in The Shining to a gap-toothed David Letterman. Many cool designs are available at craft stores and online.
MULTIPLE PUMPKIN DISORDER
You know who you are. One is not enough, so you will have a tower of pumpkins in urns flanking the front door or a Rockettes-worthy lineup of the fruit decorating the stairs. The mantle and dining room table will be covered with white, black, green and orange mini-kins. Some will be unadorned, or have painted-on bold graphics, or signal seasonal strange behavior with lighted candles inside. It appears that when it comes to pumpkins, the more the merrier.
In the autumn, a pumpkin is much more than just Jack O Lanterns. The edible marvels are on the menu at restaurants where a nice smash of the veggie produces pumpkin soup and ravioli at Out Takes Cafe on Ventura, pumpkin latte at Panera, pumpkin pastry at Starbucks, pumpkin pancakes at Jinkys and even a pumpkin facial enzyme mask at Glow Skincare. Canned pumpkin is often recommended by vets for dogs and cats with digestive problems. Even the students at Hogwart’s in Harry Potter favored pumpkin juice!
WHAT TO DO:
Try cutting a hole at the bottom of your jack o’ lantern rather than the top.
Carve out guts with an ice-cream scoop.
Have poker tools and carving knives at the ready.
Preserve your design with petroleum jelly, spray cooking oil, or bathroom cleaner with bleach
Order black pumpkins (Black Futsu) seeds for next year.
If you grow your own, control weeds with mulch, but be careful digging around them as pumpkins have very shallow roots.
STEAL THIS IDEA:
Use Christmas white craft light strings to design your own pattern. Make holes with a ¼” drill bit and place one bulb in each hole.
THE GREAT PUMPKIN MANIFESTO
Maybe Linus will be haunting the following places to visit in the coming days:
Dixie Canyon Pumpkin Fair (Saturday, October 27, 11 a.m.–7 p.m., 4220 Dixie Canyon Ave. Sherman Oaks);
Mr.Bones Pumpkin Patch, 702 North Doheney Drive (West Hollywood);
Tina’s Pumpkin Patch 4827 Sepulveda Blvd.,Sherman Oaks;
Tapia Brothers Farm corn maze and pumpkin patch 5251 Hayvenhurst Ave in Encino;
The Halloween Harvest Festival and FrightFair Scream Park at 20800 Victory Blvd.,Woodland Hills.