To find the perfect fall pumpkin, Paul Pugliese, the agriculture and natural resources agent for the Cooperative Extension office in Cherokee County, says to check local roadside markets, local grocers, the supermarket or pick-your-own farms.
The American Phytopathological Society offers the following tips:
• Check for moldy areas or soft spots on the fruit (remember to check the bottom). Choose one with a hard rind.
• Check the stem attachment. Healthy stems are green and securely attached.
• Most pumpkin varieties are a dull to bright-orange when mature.
• Keep the pumpkin in a dry, shady place, and try to prevent it from freezing.
• To help a Jack-o’-lantern last through Halloween, don’t carve it until a few days before the event.
• Pick pumpkins before frost. Leave at least
3 to 4 inches of stem on the fruit.
Pugliese also said that finding a locally grown pumpkin may not be easy. Georgia farmers only grow about 600 acres of them each year, although that figure has been rising. Most of the pumpkins grown in Georgia are in the northern third of the state, although there are a few south Georgia growers.
For harvest near Halloween or Thanksgiving, pumpkins must be planted in early to late June, depending on the variety. Don’t expect to break the world record (more than 1,000 pounds). It’s virtually impossible to grow competitively large pumpkins in Georgia’s climate.