Pick a pumpkin

pumpkin carved into snarling face

Find pumpkins for eating, pumpkins for carving

by Jill Lessard

Autumn brings crisp temperatures, colorful foliage and a passion for picking pumpkins. But knowing which pumpkin to pick can be a yearly conundrum. Will it be a traditional titian red? Mossy green? Ghostly white? Will it be transformed into a jack-o’-lantern for Halloween, or will it provide the key ingredient for a sweet or savory treat?

Whatever the motivation, pickers will improve their chances of finding the perfect candidate for decoration or digestion by keeping these seeds of wisdom, offered by Rick Hardy of Brookdale Fruit Farm in Hollis, in mind.

“Rain is a challenge,” said Hardy about this summer’s precipitation, which can cause damaging fungus, “but it’s something we manage.” To keep the crop healthy, Hardy and the Brookdale team are vigilant and proactive. “Do you use deodorant?,” he asked, half jokingly. “It’s basically the same thing. We try to prevent the accumulation of harmful bacteria.”

Although a lack of pumpkins isn’t a concern this season, “we’re much more careful of restocking our displays at least twice a week to give our customers the best possible selection and quality,” he said, adding that apples and raspberries are also ripe for the picking.
For those who have the guts to try creating a culinary pumpkin dish, Hardy offers a few suggestions representing a variety of colors. “The Rouge Vif D’Etampes or Cinderella pumpkin; the beige Long Island Cheese pumpkin; the blue Jarrahdale, and the pinkish Porcelain Doll pumpkin are all good for cooking.”

For those intent on sharpening their knives and creative skills, master pumpkin carver Maurice “Moe” Auger shared some information and insights.

“I think people enjoy the light from the jack-o’-lantern,” said the Maine artist and art teacher, who tackled his first pumpkin, a 600-pounder, 25 years ago and, in his own words, was hooked, by “the way the light creates shadow in a dark room and, of course, the spook factor.”

Auger’s preference is to find the “oddball pumpkin,” he said. “I try to see the face within the form. Most people pick a good stem, which I often do. I don’t cut a lid, but cut the bottom instead. I use an LED light to make it glow bright.”

Whether to go freehand or use a pattern is a personal preference.

“I think that what works best for you is the way to go,” Auger said. “I always go freehand with pictures as reference.”

Michelangelo said he “saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.” Auger is definitely on the same page — or canvas — as the Renaissance master. “Seeing something within the pumpkin form is the draw to carving for me,” he said. “That and the enjoyment it brings to people.”

After transforming so many pumpkins over the years, is there still a pumpkin-carving goal he has yet to achieve? “I’ve carved quite a few big pumpkins and would love to get my hands on another 2,000-pound fruit. The bigger the better!”

Pick your own pumpkin

Here are a few area farms offering the chance to pick your own pumpkin. Call in advance to ensure conditions are good for picking on that day. Know of a pumpkin patch not listed here? Let us know at adiaz@hippopress.com.

  • Applecrest Farm (133 Exeter Road, Hampton Falls, 926-3721, applecrest.com) Open Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
  • Butternut Farm (195 Meaderboro Road, Farmington, 335-4705, butternutfarm.net) Family-friendly; family-run. Tuesday to Sunday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Pumpkins priced at 65 cents per pound. Cider house open with 3-ounce samples of the hard stuff available for any blend on tap.
  • DeMeritt Hill Farm (20 Orchard Way, Lee, 868-2111, demeritthillfarm.com) has PYO pumpkins, open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. The farm’s Haunted Overload attraction has begun for the season (it runs Thursdays through Sundays as well as on Tuesday, Oct. 31) as has its Enchanted Storybook Hayride (an attraction for younger kids), with times on Saturdays and Sundays.
  • J&F Farms (124 Chester Road, Derry, 437-0535, jandffarmsnh.com) Weekends at the farm feature PYO pumpkins Saturdays and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. as well as food trucks, a Halloween-themed corn maze, a petting farm and cider doughnuts, according to a social media post.
  • Lavoie’s Farm (172 Nartoff Road, Hollis, 882-0072, lavoiesfarm.wordpress.com) has PYO pumpkins open daily from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. The corn maze is also open daily; on weekends the farm offers hayrides and a corn boil from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
  • Mack’s Apples (230 Mammoth Road, Londonderry, 434-7619, macksapples.com) Farm market open Monday to Sunday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. U-pick open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Pick your own in the patch or choose from a pre-picked assortment at the farm stand.
  • Moulton Farm (18 Quarry Road, Meredith, 279-3915, moultonfarm.com) Don’t get lost in the corn maze or you won’t be able to find the pumpkin patch. Tickets are $10 per person; $6 per child 3 to 6 years old; free for kids under age 3. Last admission for the maze is one hour before the farm closes. Open daily 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
  • Riverview Farm (144 River Road, Plainfield, 298-8519, riverviewnh.com) Family-run. Open Wednesday to Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Lose yourself in this year’s corn maze, the most challenging yet. Maze admission is $8, free for children age 4 and under.
  • Sunnycrest Farm (59 High Range Road and 114 Pillsbury Road, Londonderry, 432-7753, sunnycrestfarmnh. com) has PYO pumpkins open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., weather-dependent.

Featured image: Courtesy photo.

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