Pumpkins are recognizable by their distinctive colour and resting place, on the patios of those who celebrate Thanksgiving or Halloween.
However it’s easy to forget that what ends up as a 50-pound seasonal decoration, started out not long before as just a small seed. In fact, the journey to growing one of these popular fruits is not quite as easy as one might assume.
By the first week of June, farmers will have started to til their soil, spread manure into it, and plant their seeds; pumpkins, squash, gourds and more.
“It’s not that easy, people think that pumpkin might be an easy crop to grow, but there’s a lot that goes into it,” said Kelowna’s Don-O-Ray Farms owner, Jas Sanghera, standing in his field on Oct. 3.
Once the seeds are planted, farmers must ensure the crop is watered and cultivated regularly. Cultivation, Sanghera said, is one of the most important steps to growing good pumpkins. Without it, he said weeds can steal nearby nutrients intended for the crop.
“A clean field will always have the best pumpkins,” he said, adding a field filled with weeds will attract birds who will feast on the pumpkins as well.
This year, the farm will harvest between 6-7,000 pumpkins.
Families and friends flocked to farms in the outskirts of Kelowna this weekend to pick up a pumpkin or thanksgiving treat. Don-O-Ray Farms, like others in the area, was busy with customers.
Close by, the parking lot at McMillan Farms was full, with visitors choosing pumpkins, participating in tractor rides, photo opportunities and corn mazes.
The best way to pick a pumpkin, Sanghera said, is when it is medium-ripe, with a bit of green still showing. And when harvested, a study stem should be left on top.
Stems can be a good indication of the health of the pumpkin. A sturdy stem is a good indication of a healthy pumpkin; if the stem starts to rot or go soft, that means the pumpkin inside is also starting to go bad. Moisture around the stem will allow it to rot.
Wiping down a freshly-picked pumpkin, and removing any dirt from it, is one of the best ways to ensure your seasonal decoration will last. However in addition to this, Sanghera has another trick up his sleeve.
“If you mix a little bit of bleach in water or vinegar and wipe it (pumpkin) down, the pumpkin will always tend to last longer,” he said, adding that the bleach or vinegar helps prevent the growth of bacteria.
Other tips and tricks to keep your pumpkins fresh include cleaning the inside after you carve it, keeping it away from freezing temperatures, and re-hydrating it daily.
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