The Ohio State University has 5 acres of pumpkin testing grounds located about 40 miles west of Columbus in South Charleston. It is here that OSU ponders the mysteries of Mother Nature and the science of pumpkin growing to develop the best pumpkin seeds that will ultimately be used by commercial growers throughout the state. It is on these testing grounds that different varieties of pumpkins go through extensive testing to determine which varieties stand up to the normal Ohio climate and withstands the attacks by bugs and diseases commonly found here.
Each year, the OSU agricultural test fields are planted with control pumpkin crops and a variety of other pumpkin varieties that have been bred in previous years to address specific problems issues associated with growing pumpkins. This problems might be how the plants withstand certain diseases such as white speck which often kills young plants or disfigures mature fruit. It is an ongoing process.
The research lab also provides valuable information to the commercial growers throughout the state. If a grower had a specific problem last year with mildew, the lab can advise them about varieties of pumpkins that do well in Ohio's climate, but also are resistant to mildew.
Often we hear that nationwide it was a "bad" year for pumpkins, yet Ohio more often than not, has had a bumper crop of pumpkins. Thank you OSU for making Halloween a better looking event here in Ohio. Of course, no amount of testing can help if we had widespread drought throughout the summer,
What makes a good pumpkin?
That depends on what you want from your pumpkin. Pumpkins used for making pies are entirely different than pumpkins used forJack O' Lanterns, which are entirely different from pumpkins grown for their enormous size.
Pumpkins are actually related to cucumbers, and of course gourds and squash, but also watermelon. In North America there are 4 different types of pumpkins based on their vining properties: there are vining types, bush types, semi-bush and miniature.
Pumpkin Pie Varieties
Pumpkins suitable for pumpkin pies generally have very thick shells. They also are not very large compared with regular Jack O' Lantern types. The ribs of the pumpkin are small or nonexistent.
These pumpkins have a much thinner shell that makes them ideal for carving and illuminating. Although we commonly think of the pumpkin being used for Jack O’Lanterns. The first Jack O' Lanterns were actually made from large turnips.
History of the Jack O' Lantern
Pumpkins were originally only known in the Americas, and the giant fruits were grown only for their seeds. It wasn't until Europeans began arriving in North America when they combined one of their old Irish traditions with the giant fruits being grown by the Native Americans. According to an article developed by the History Channel on pumpkin history lore, the practice of creating a lighted fruit originated from an old Irish myth about a man nicknamed "Stingy Jack."
According to their story, Stingy Jack being a complete unsavory character, convinced the Devil to sit down and have a drink or two. Rather than pay for the drinks himself, Stingy Jack actually conned the Devil into paying for the drinks by convincing the Devil to turn himself into a coin that Jack could then use to pay for their brews. Whether it was Stingy Jack's power of persuasion or the fact that perhaps the Devil had too much to drink, but he agreed to Jack's suggestion.
Just as quickly as the old Devil turned into a coin, than Jack decided to keep the new coin by slipping it into his pocket next to his silver cross. Supposedly, the silver cross prevented the Devil from reforming himself. Jack would eventually free the Devil from his constraint, but only on the condition that the Devil would stay away from him for one year, and, if Jack were to die before then, the Devil could not claim his soul.
The following year, when the Devil next visited Stingy Jack to claim his payment, Jack once again tricked the Devil into climbing up a tree to reach some prime fruit, only to be tricked again by Jack. As the Devil was climbing the tree, Jack carved the powerful sign of the cross into the tree's trunk, once again confining the Devil from taking flight.
Not long after this event, Jack passed away, the cause of his death was not given, only that when he reached heaven, God refused him entry because of his dealings on earth and with his continued dealings with the Devil. Once God refused him, he was forced to face the Devil.
The old Devil, perhaps fearing the trickery that Stingy Jack might play on him, would not allow Jack entry into his realm. However, he was able to hand out a just punishment for the trickery he had dealt him. Jack was forced to roam the night, with only a burning coal from hell to light light his way. But Jack got the last laugh. He carved out the inside of a large turnip and placed the burning coal inside and has been roaming the night ever since.
Over the years, the Irish began referring to this ghostly figure stalking the countryside as "Jack of the Lantern," which over time became just "Jack O' Lantern." In time, scary faces were carved to help ward off visits by Stingy Jack and other evil spirits. In England, large beets are used. Immigrants from these countries brought the Jack O’Lanterns tradition with them when they came to the United States. They soon found that pumpkins, a fruit native to America, make perfect Jack O’Lanterns.