It’s that time of year again when trees turn brilliant colors, and autumn leaves begin to fall like confetti. Like so many people, one of my favorite things to do this season is visiting the pumpkin patch at our nearby apple barn.
I always looked forward to when my parents would take my brothers and me out to pick our Halloween pumpkins as a child. There was only one kind of pumpkin everyone could buy in those days – the traditional Jack-o-lantern pumpkin. But today, there are so many more varieties available. Blue, white, pink, green-striped, yellow, splotchy, warty, jumbo, minis, you name it. In all, there are 147 varieties to consider.
Pumpkin decorating techniques have also changed since I was a child in the 60s. When I was young, you simply carved your pumpkin with a steak knife. Now, people carve them, paint them, glue things to them, decoupage, or stack and dress them. There seems to be no end to what you can do.
The memory of agonizing over the perfect pumpkin to take home is still fresh in my mind. Once we made our selections and lugged the great orbs home, we dived into the delightful mess of scooping out the seeds and goop from the pumpkin’s innards.
We planned out our pumpkin’s faces by drawing patterns on paper and left the handling of knives and carving to our parents. Our pumpkins’ faces were simple, with triangular eyes and big happy grins. But, again, this is unlike how pumpkins are carved today, with special miniature scoops, punches, saws, and elaborate designs.
Besides enjoying the magic of making a Jack-O-Lantern, we equally enjoyed roasting and eating the pumpkin seeds. In those times, pumpkin seeds or “pepitas” were not readily available in stores. So eating fresh roasted pumpkin seeds was a particular treat.
I like that traditions change and expand over time. I like that you can choose from many pumpkin varieties and decorate with them in imaginative ways. I like that pumpkin spice coffees, donuts, pies, candles, air sprays, and hand lotions are now offered throughout the year but are especially celebrated in autumn. And perhaps most of all, I love that it’s okay to be an adult and still love picking out a pumpkin to decorate and put out on the front porch. Pumpkins stopped appearing on my parent’s porch after we kids grew up and moved away. Today, it’s common to see just as many adults as kids in the pumpkin patches. We don’t have to stop loving pumpkins because we grow up.
I no longer buy just one orange pumpkin for the porch. I now buy a variety of types and disperse them throughout the garden and front and back doors. Even though I now have six pumpkins, I still want to buy more. In my view, it’s not a waste of money. When the season is over, I can crack them in half and put them in the backyard for the squirrels and other neighborhood critters to feed on.
The availability of more pumpkin varieties encourages me to revisit one of my happy childhood memories. But this time, I get to expand on the fall ritual; I am in charge. I am the child and the adult, with money in her pocket, a driver’s license, and the ability to decide when I need more pumpkins and when I’ve bought enough. And really, I never get enough.
This week’s recommended read for children is, Little Boo by Stephen Wunderli, illustrated by Tim Zeltner — a tale about a little pumpkin seed that can hardly wait to grow up to become a Jack-O-Lantern. And be sure to check out my Activities section for some seasonal Pumpkin fun.