COLUMBIA, 11/16/11 (Mizzou) -- More than a billion pounds of pumpkins are grown every year in the U.S., and most of those will become decorations rather than pumpkin pies, says University of Missouri Extension horticulturist David Trinklein. 

Though pumpkin pie is a Thanksgiving delicacy, pumpkin growers aren't worried about taste.   Instead, "everything is done for ornamental appeal," Trinklein explained.  "Breeders have bred pumpkins with an atypically large stem, or handle, that is deep green in color even when dry."

Though pumpkins seem like Mother Nature's Halloween treat, both science and marketing have transformed the pumpkins we buy, eat and exhibit today, Trinklein explains.  
Despite the harvest schedule that governs other foodstuffs, breeders deliberately make pumpkins ready for Halloween ahead of the harvest schedule.  "Years and years ago, you knew when the pumpkin turned orange it was time to harvest it," said Trinklein, "But plant breeders have developed pumpkins that turn bright Halloween orange well ahead of maturity."

Given the impact of All Hallows Eve on the venerable pumpkin, Trinklein nonetheless emphasizes its real value in healthy eating.    "Pumpkin is really quite a nutritious vegetable," Trinklein said. "It is very high in beta-carotene or vitamin A.    It's a good source of dietary fiber, and as Garrison Keillor would say, 'It's a good excuse to use nutmeg and cinnamon.'"

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