Illinois leads U.S. pumpkin production

(Image courtesy of the University of Illinois Extension)

According to the U.S. Census of Agriculture, the majority of pumpkin acres were grown in only ten States, and Illinois is consistently the nation’s largest producer of pumpkins, the majority of which are used for pies and processed foods.

“In Illinois, we grow somewhere around 90% of the nation’s canned pumpkins,” said Nathan Johanning, Commercial Agriculture Educator, University of Illinois Extension. “That means, whether you’re in Illinois, New York, California, or anywhere in between, that can of pumpkin pie filling you buy this holiday season, probably came from right here in Illinois.”

There are many different species in the pumpkin family, and some are more inclined for baking than others. “The common misconception is that a typical canned pumpkin is the same as the jack-o-lantern pumpkin, but that’s just not true,” says Johanning. “A baking pumpkin is actually a tan color on the outside, and has a rich, fleshy, bright orange inside.”

Many of Illinois’ local farms grow pumpkins suitable for baking and cooking in soups and other dishes. Pumpkins found in bins at the local grocer are more likely produced for carving and other decorative purposes. “If you’re interested in cooking or baking with pumpkin from scratch, we recommend going to a local farm for your best options,” says Johanning.

Illinois Extension supports pumpkin farmers from a disease management perspective and generally helps farmers maintain a healthy crop from planting to harvest. According to Johanning, “We do field days with farmers; provide local, hyper-relevant research; advise on variety selection, cover crops, weed management, and so much more.”

Pie pumpkins range in many sizes, from 2 to over 30 lbs. The traditional orange jack-o-lantern pumpkins are primarily used for fall decorations, carved into jack-o-lanterns, but some prefer to use them for baking as well. Pumpkins range in size from less than one pound to more than 1,000 pounds. The potential size is determined by the variety grown and growing conditions.

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