COLUMBIA, Mo. – Even when it’s dry, there will be pumpkin pie.

But the cost of this year’s pumpkin pie might be slightly higher due to the drought, which reduced yields for Missouri pumpkin growers, said Sanjun Gu, assistant professor and state horticulture specialist from Cooperative Research and Extension at Lincoln University in Jefferson City.

Additionally, pumpkins may be smaller this year due to high summer temperatures, but the flavor of this nutrient-rich vegetable will be unchanged, Gu said.

Eighty percent of the pumpkin supply is available in October. Illinois is the top pumpkin-producing state: Most of the nation’s pumpkins are grown within a 90-mile radius of Peoria, Ill. According to a 2009 agricultural census, Missouri ranks 22nd in the nation in pumpkin production. Pumpkins take 80-120 days to reach market maturity, with most pumpkins planted in late May.

Pumpkin vines are frost-sensitive, but the fruit handles frost relatively well. Pumpkins can be stored up to three months in a cool, dry place such as a basement (50-55 degrees with relative humidity of 50-70 percent.) To maximize pumpkin storage length, place them single layer, avoiding contact with other pumpkins; do not place them directly on concrete floors.

High temperatures this year lessened certain disease problems common with pumpkins, such as powdery mildew, said David Trinklein, associate professor of plant sciences at the University of Missouri. Most plant diseases thrive under moist conditions. Thus, one of the few positive aspects of the drought of 2012 was a reduction in plant disease severity, he said.

The nutritional value of pumpkins is often overlooked, Trinklein said. They are high in vitamin A and beta carotene and are a good source of fiber. Unfortunately, he added, most recipes calling for pumpkin also call for sugar and other not-so-healthy ingredients.

“When pumpkins have outlived their usefulness, please remember to compost them rather than littering or throwing them in a trash bag to be sent to a landfill,” Gu said.

Pumpkin pointers

Gu offers the following hints:

  • Avoid pumpkins with soft spots and black spots.
  • Skin should be firm, not soft.
  • Try to choose a pumpkin with a full and green stem, which indicates that the pumpkin was harvested recently or produced locally.
  • Never carry pumpkins by the stem. If the stem is broken, the pumpkin will decay quickly.

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