September 2, 2014

Elyria
Cloudy
77°F
test

First colors of fall


County’s fields turning orange with pumpkins

The county is full of pretty patches of pickable pumpkins.

BRUCE BISHOP / CHRONICLE
Dan Fitch takes a pumpkin from his brother Adam Fitch as they load a trailer at Fitch’s Farm Market on state Route 83 in Avon.

After a pretty stellar growing season that saw a lot of sun, a few downpours and some cool nights, pumpkins are ripe and ready to be picked at a farm near you.

“(The pumpkins) are looking real good compared to what we’ve expected,” said Dave Miller, co-owner of Miller Orchards in Amherst. "With all this crazy weather, we didn’t know what to expect.”

Unlike other fruits that typically grow on trees, pumpkins can grow two-per-vine on the ground, producing up to 4,000 per acre if the weeds and wildlife don’t get to them first.

“When you’re not fighting the weeds, you’re fighting the deer, rabbit and woodchucks,” Miller said. “Unfortunately, they haven’t come up with any pumpkins that grow off trees.”

A pumpkin’s size is generally controlled by genetics, which run sporadically throughout hundreds of varieties.

Whether you’re considering picking up the often round “weepy hills,” the large “howden biggies” or the fun to carve “spooky,” farms around the county often carry up to 10 different choices.

Dick Fitch, owner of Fitch’s Farm Market in Avon, said his farm has the big white pumpkin variety known as “cotton candy” that can get as large as 40 pounds, and carry enough “meat” inside for a couple pumpkin pies.

Fitch’s pumpkins often have to be picked by the end of September, he said, or they risk having the dwindling vine that once gave the pumpkin moisture, suck it away.

While his staff has already loaded a trailer full of pumpkins that people can choose from, he makes sure they also pick up some of the pumpkins others might leave behind.

“Some people come in for the ugliest pumpkins too,” Fitch said. “So we make sure we’ve got plenty of the weird looking ones.”

Rockin’ R Ranch in Columbia Township provides pumpkin-buying customers a free paint station to doodle as they’d like, and most farms offer other fall decorating varieties like hay, corn stalks and gourds.

Tim Malinich, horticulture educator for the Ohio State University Extension Office, said winter squash — a cousin of the pumpkin, which derives its name from the seasonal duration of its storability — is also available this time of year and shouldn’t be passed up.

“Recipes can be as simple of cutting them in half, adding brown sugar and throwing them in the oven,” Malinich said. “If you haven’t picked them up before, you should definitely give them a try.”

Although, they might not be as fun to carve on Halloween.

Contact Stephen Szucs at 336-4016 or sszucs@chroniclet.com.