The late arrival of the UK summer has enabled the 2016 pumpkin crop to reach harvest in almost perfect condition. The week leading up to Halloween is when the majority of pumpkins are bought, although over the past few years, retailers have been selling pumpkins earlier, which helps to spread this peak in demand.
"The peak in demand can generate a logistical challenge due to the large, bulky size of Pumpkins," explains Keston Williams, Technical Director at UK grower, Barfoots. "This year some of the fruit are a little smaller, and quantities are lower than seen in previous years. It looks like we have enough to cover the demand of the smaller sizes, although the larger sizes might be short this year, but the vibrant orange colour and overall quality of the pumpkins, which Barfoots are currently harvesting, is exceptional."
As long as a pumpkin hasn’t been carved or damaged, it can last a long time, but once carved they only last a few days. The hot weather has helped cure the pumpkins in the field and increased shelf life this year. Pumpkins don’t like cool, wet weather, particularly in August.
Carving pumpkins have been bred for their size and colour and not their flavour, but Barfoots are working with the pumpkin plant breeders to change this in the future. In the meantime the culinary pumpkin is available. This can be carved and the flesh eaten in soups or incorporated in other dishes, such as the famous American pumpkin pie.
Pumpkins are still a seasonal product, although demand for other squashes has continued to grow throughout the year. "There are some wonderfully flavoured squashes, such as Crown Prince, Harlequin and of course Butternut, which are available from retailers throughout the year," said Keston.
Culinary pumpkins have been bred to have a much thicker flesh (compared to carving pumpkins) and have a better flavour. A pumpkin is a type of squash and can be eaten in much the same way. Mini Munchkin pumpkins and gourds also make ideal table decorations. A pumpkin variety that is growing in popularity is the ‘Goose bump’ pumpkin with its warty looking skin ideal for a spooky Halloween lantern, and new this year is a limited edition production of ghost like white pumpkins.
Barfoots lead the market in pumpkin innovation, regularly bringing new varieties to market to enhance the Halloween shoppers experience and add to the success of this increasingly important Autumn event.
With a range of traditional bright orange pumpkins in sizes to suit all requirements Barfoots will supply nearly 1 million pumpkins this year.