Pumpkin shortage? Not in Illinois
From press release
URBANA, Ill.—Although shortages of both jack-o’-lantern pumpkins and canned pumpkin in stores have been reported, researchers say there are plenty of both available, particularly in the Midwest.
“Part of the confusion about possible shortages is because there are many different pumpkin varieties,” said Bill Shoemaker, researcher at the University of Illinois Horticulture Research Center in St. Charles, Ill. “Processing pumpkins for canned pumpkin are great big football-shaped squash, a sort of tan color—not the kind of decorative jack-o’-lantern pumpkin that consumers are used to seeing.”
Shoemaker said last year there was a serious crop failure for processing pumpkins used in canned pumpkin pie filling—which is currently on store shelves. This year’s crop has been good, but it takes time to get it processed and into cans.
“Right now, the market is experiencing a gap in the need for canned pumpkin and the current availability of it in the stores,” he said. “This year’s crop is at the processing plant now. There may be a delay, but this year’s pumpkin crop is coming to the rescue just in time.”
Approximately 40 percent of the processing pumpkin crops have been harvested, and the rest will be harvested as long as there is no deep freezing, said U of I plant pathologist Mohammad Babadoost.
“In the past two weeks, I have had many contacts about this year’s pumpkin crop in Illinois, the Midwest and nationwide,” Babadoost said. “There may be fewer pumpkin crops in the Northeastern states than expected, but to my knowledge, there is no shortage of pumpkins in the Midwest, certainly not in Illinois. We have had a record processing pumpkin acreage in Illinois in 2009. The only problem was that harvesting of processed pumpkin began about 10 days later than usual, due to the wet season and a delay in planting.”
Regarding jack-o’-lantern pumpkins, Babadoost said only a few growers in Illinois reported poor pollination and poor crops.
“We have had higher incidence of bacterial spot disease than the past,” Babadoost said. “However, Illinois Halloween pumpkins are fine, and there should be no shortage. We do not have the best pumpkin crops that we expected, but we have satisfactory pumpkin crops, and will meet the demands of Illinois citizens and beyond.”
For those parts of the country that are having a difficult time locating a supply of pumpkin, U of I’s MarketMaker Web site has an interactive directory of growers and producers.
“If the large commercial growers that supply pumpkins to grocery store chains are seeing lower yields, it’s still possible to locate a source of pumpkins through the MarketMaker Web site,” said U of I Extension specialist Darlene Knipe. “There are over 1,500 pumpkin growers listed on MarketMaker—315 in Illinois alone.”
The national Web site can be found at http://national.marketmaker.uiuc.edu/. Visitors can click on a state to target their search for pumpkins, or click on the link to the Market Place Buy Sell Forum and use the search function at the top of the page to find pumpkin sources in all of the participating states.
During the short gap in product supply, Shoemaker recommends consumers try making their own pie filling. “Sugar pie pumpkin looks like a small jack-o’-lantern-style pumpkin,” he said. “The pulp inside is less stringy and makes a good pie filling. Homeowners can also use butternut squash or buttercup squash as substitutes for recipes that call for pumpkin.”
Illinois is the leading state in pumpkin production with approximately 90 percent of processing pumpkins produced in the United States grown in Illinois. Shoemaker said many Illinois pumpkin growers also grow butternut squash.
University of Illinois Extension’s Web site http://urbanext.illinois.edu/pumpkins/selection.html has information about how to select and cook fresh pumpkin.
From the October 14-20, 2009 issue
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