Pumpkin Market Summary
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Pumpkin Market OverviewPumpkins are a member of the cucurbit family along with cantaloupe, cucumbers, squash, watermelon, and gourds. Evidence of pumpkin consumption dates as far back as 7,000 to 13,000 B.C. to cliff dwellers in the U.S. Southwest and northern areas of South America. Europeans arrived and likely passed them on to the rest of the world in the sixteenth or seventeenth centuries.
Types & Varieties of PumpkinsPumpkins share many traits with squash but have coarser flesh and a stronger flavor. There are four usage and size categories: giant, Jack O’ Lantern, pie, and ornamental. Giant pumpkins, as their name suggests, range from 25 to as large as 1,000 pounds; while Jack O’ Lanterns are usually ribbed fruits with smooth to bumpy orange skin ranging from about 10 to 25 pounds. These are typically used for carving during Halloween; they are also used to make pies and other dishes, for stock feed, and for their edible seeds. Pie pumpkins—named for their most common use—are generally smaller and sweeter with smooth, firm, bright flesh ranging from about 5 to 10 pounds. Ornamental pumpkins are miniature, usually weighing less than a pound, and used primarily for decoration. While pumpkins are typically thought of as being orange with smooth skin, varieties range from white or orange to green with either a bumpy or smooth texture, and from solid colored to striped.
Cultivation of PumpkinsPumpkins require full sun with temperatures of at least 65 to 75°F. They will grow in sandy soil but need ample irrigation during blossoming and fruit set. Crop rotation with noncucurbits is ideal for disease and pest control. Pumpkins develop both male and female ?owers on the same plant and require honeybees for pollination. Plants are pollinated at di?erent times, requiring multiple harvests throughout the season. As plants grow, pruning produces larger fruit. Mature fruit must be harvested before a hard freeze, though a light frost can be tolerated. Fruit color is often the best indicator of maturity. Pumpkins are hand-harvested and prone to damage from rough handling as cuts and bruises are entry points for pests and disease.
Pests & Diseases Affecting PumpkinsA host of insects can play havoc with development and growth, including beetles, thrips, aphids, melonworms, cutworms and pickleworms. Other pests include grasshoppers, leaf hoppers, leafminers, nematodes, root maggots, spider mites, squash bugs, squash vine borers, and wireworms. Diseases can be carried by wind, rain, or infected seeds, soil, or machinery, including alternaria leaf spot, anthracnose, gummy stem blight, target spot, belly rot, crown rot and powdery and downy mildew.
Storage & Packaging of PumpkinsFruit is cured at 70 to 85% relative humidity at 80 to 85°F for 10 to 20 days. Ideal post-curing storage is in a cool, dry environment between 50 to 60°F with good air circulation. Pumpkins are best stored in a single layer rather than stacked to prevent decay. Properly stored pumpkins will keep for 2 to 3 months. References: PennState Extension, Purdue University Extension, University of Florida/IFAS Extension, University of Georgia Extension, University of Illinois Extension.
Grades & Good Arrival of PumpkinsPumpkins are included in the grades for fall/winter squash as either U.S. No. 1 or U.S. No. 2. Fruit must be of similar varietal characteristics, not broken or cracked, and free from soft rot or wet breakdown. The U.S. No. 1 grade also requires fruit be well matured and free from damage by scars, dry rot freezing, dirt, disease, insects, and mechanical injury. For U.S. No. 2, the fruit must be fairly well matured and free from serious damage from the above listed characteristics.
Generally speaking, the percentage of defects shown on a timely government inspection certificate should not exceed the percentage of allowable defects, provided: (1) transportation conditions were normal; (2) the USDA or CFIA inspection was timely; and (3) the entire lot was inspected.
|U.S. Grade Standards
|Days Since Shipment
|% of Defects Allowed
|Optimum Transit Temp. (°F)
|5 4 3 2 1
|15-4 14-4 13-3 11-2 10-2
Inspector's Insights for Pumpkins
- Worm holes are scored as a defect when unhealed or if more than 2 are found in a winter squash or pumpkin
- There is no requirement in the U.S. No. 1 grade for a pumpkin to have its stem attached
- Score dry rot as a defect when affecting an area of more than 1 inch in diameter on a 10-pound specimen.