LAWRENCE TWP. — Don't lose your gourd. It's that time of year again. Hay rides, pumpkin spice, scarecrows, corn stalks and jack-o'-lanterns are replacing summer fun as the days grow cooler and we welcome fall.
Families are flocking to area pumpkin patches to pick the perfect pumpkin and enjoy fall activities.
Danielle Higgins of Plain Township and her children, Caroline, 7, and Greyson, 5, headed to Nickajack Farms in Lawrence Township last week to find a jack-o'-lantern among the thousands of orange globes in the pumpkin patch.
"We've been doing this since (Caroline) was a baby," Higgins said as her youngsters bounced from pumpkin to pumpkin seeking the perfect pick. "They love finding their own pumpkin."
At Kingsway Pumpkin Farm in Hartville, pumpkin season is underway, as well. Owner Kevin King said their crop is a little later than usual after the inconsistent weather that included extreme heat, heavy rains and then dry spells.
"It's fair," King said. "We got pumpkins."
They have more than 50 acres of pumpkin fields that they began planting after Memorial Day. King said the pumpkin patch has lots of pumpkins but it also has a lot of weeds. The weeds, he said, took over during the drier month of June.
"There's a lot more weeds than I like but we do have pumpkins," he said with a laugh.
Nickajack has 52 acres of pumpkins with a goal of producing about 30,000 pumpkins each season. This year's group produced an array of jack-o-lanterns and new ones continue to pop up daily, farm manager Nate Haut said.
Both Kingsway and Nickajack opened their pumpkin patches the weekend of Sept. 16.
With just over a month left until Halloween, the Canton Repository turned to local pumpkin experts to share their tips to pick the best pumpkin for carving, decorating and eating.
How to pick the perfect pumpkin
Whether you are decorating the front porch or preparing to carve the best pumpkin in the neighborhood, Nate Haut, farm manager at Nickajack, said there are hundreds of varieties to suit everyone's needs.
"It's really about personal preference," he said standing among the hundreds of jack-o'-lanterns for sale at Nickajack.
The pumpkin patch has pumpkins that are tall, round, short and everything in between. Serious carvers like the taller fruit, allowing them to have more surface to carve. Some of the larger pumpkins can have thicker flesh that can make it more difficult to carve, he added.
Regardless of what kind of pumpkin you pick, Haut said, you should check to make sure your pumpkin doesn't have any mushy spots, that its stem is sturdy and that its flesh is not scared — breaks in the skin. Marks that have penetrated the skin of the pumpkin spells trouble, he added.
Pumpkin purchasers should note that a little bit of green is OK, the pumpkin will ripen to orange.
When should I select a pumpkin?
It's OK to take a trip to the pumpkin patch now, but Haut recommends keeping your pumpkin in the shade. It should last for weeks. Pumpkins can deteriorate quickly if they experience a frost.
Right now, Nickajack is selling about 300 pumpkins each weekend but that number will rise to 3,000 a weekend as the calendar draws closer to the end of October.
What's the best way to preserve your pumpkin?
You can use cold water with a little bit of dish soap to clean the surface of a pumpkin, but there isn't anything you can do once they are carved. Haut hasn't had any luck preserving a pumpkin once they are carved. Spraying the fruit with bleach or alcohol doesn't slow the process, he said.
Pumpkins aren't just for Halloween
While you can find a huge array of jack-o'-lanterns, there are tons of different pumpkin varieties and gourds to decorate your home for the fall season.
Nickajack offers about 20 varieties known as the world of color pumpkins. These pumpkins grow in a variety of shapes and sizes and have white, red, pink, gray, off-orange and greenish shades of skin. They are more expensive as they are more expensive to grow, Haut added.
These varieties have grown more popular, he said. Nickajack also has gourds that offer a pop of color and different shapes and sizes. Among the most popular are the tree house gourds and apple gourds. Gourds, he said can last through Thanksgiving.
Don't forget: You can eat pumpkins
Many people enjoy removing the seeds from the pumpkin and roasting them but don't forget that pie pumpkins and many squashes are edible.
Pie pumpkins have a higher sugar content and don't require additional sweetening when baking with them, Haut said. Regular pumpkins can be eaten as well but will require a lot of sugar to sweeten them. Nickajack offers a plethora of other squashes from acorn to butternut to the popular blue hubbard squash, a sweet winter squash.
"We have chefs come down from Cleveland and clean us out of our squashes," Haut said. "One of the most popular is the New York cheesecake squash that chefs use to make pumpkin pie."
Where to find pumpkin patches in the Canton region
Here's a look at some pumpkin patches in Northeast Ohio. Some also offer fall activities such as festivals, hayrides, corn mazes and visiting with animals. The weather or other factors may affect some activities; contact the venue before you go.
Arrowhead Orchard, 11724 Lisbon St. NE, Paris, 330-862-2733, www.arrowheadorchard.com, firstname.lastname@example.org. Open 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday, Friday and Saturday; and noon to 6 p.m. Sunday. Various fall activities. All you-pick pumpkin patrons must pay admission to fall activities. Pumpkins are priced by size, not weight, and the size is decided by the clerk. Pumpkin prices, subject to change, range from $1 for mini pumpkins to $25 for large pumpkins.
Kingsway Pumpkin Farm, 1555 Andrews St. NE, Hartville, 330-877-6241, https://kingswaypumpkinfarm.com. Open 10 a.m. to 7:30 pm. Monday through Saturday; and 1 to 6 p.m. Sunday (last admission taken a half hour before closing). Various fall activities. General admission is $10 per person, $8 for seniors 60+, and free for children 3 and younger and includes all the activities except a ride on the Kiddie Barrel Train ($1). Pumpkins are an extra fee. Daily wagon rides to the pumpkin patch start Oct. 1.
Maize Valley, 6193 Edison St. NE, Hartville, 330-877-8344, maizevalley.com, email@example.com. Open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday year-round; and noon to 7 p.m. Sundays in October. Various fall activities.
Miller's Pickin' Patch, 9460 Ravenna Ave. NE, Louisville, 330-875-9227, firstname.lastname@example.org. Open 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday and Wednesday; 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday, Thursday and Friday; and 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday.
Nickajack Farms, 2955 Manchester Ave. NW, Lawrence Township, 330-323-9714, www.nickajackfarms.com, email@example.com. Open 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily. Various fall activities.
Catalpa Grove Farm, 41473 state Route 14, Columbiana, 330-482-4064, www.catalpagrove.com, firstname.lastname@example.org. Open 9 a.m. to 6 pm. Monday through Saturday. Various fall activities.
Hershberger's Farm and Bakery, 5452 state Route 557, Millersburg, 330-674-6096, email@example.com, discoverholmescounty.com/hershbergers-farm-bakery. Open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday.
Detwiler Farm, 4520 Renkenberger Road, Columbiana, 330-482-2276, www.detwilerfarm.com, firstname.lastname@example.org. Various fall activities.
Haus Orchard & Cider Mill, 6742 West Calla Road, Canfield; 330-533-5305, www.hausappleorchards.com, email@example.com. Open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday; and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday through Saturday.
Molnar Farms, 3115 E. Western Reserve Road, Poland, 330-757-3142, molnarfarms.com, firstname.lastname@example.org. Open 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday; 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday; and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday. Various fall activities. Pick your own pumpkins from the field.
White House Fruit Farm, 9249 state Route 62, Canfield; 330-533-4161, www.whitehousefruitfarm.com, email@example.com. Open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday; and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday. Various fall activities.
Monroe's Orchard & Farm Market, 6313 Pioneer Trail, Hiram, 330-569-7464, https://monroesorchard.com, firstname.lastname@example.org. Open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday; and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.
Dussel Farm, 1109 Old Forge Road, Brimfield, 330-673-5957, www.dusselfarm.com, email@example.com. October hours are 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily.
Rufener Hilltop Farms, 1022 state Route 43, Suffield, 330-628-1082, rufeners.com, firstname.lastname@example.org. Pick-your-own pumpkins and various fall activities.
Ramseyer Farms, 4000 Ramseyer Lane, Wooster, 330-264-0264, ramseyerfarms.com, email@example.com. Open 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesday through Friday; 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday; and 1 to 7 p.m. Sundays. Various fall activities. Admission is not required just to pick pumpkins, which are 49 cents a pound.
Walsh Farms, 18723 Grill Road, Doylestown, 330-658-6125, firstname.lastname@example.org. Open 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday; and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday. Various fall activities.
Includes reporting by editorial assistant Karen Sidaway.
Reach Amy at 330-775-1135 or amy.knapp@Indeonline.com.
This article originally appeared on The Independent: How to pick the perfect pumpkin for every occasion