Hard to believe Halloween is here already! (We’d like to know exactly where this year has gone, but that’s a subject for another post.) Halloween means pumpkins and it’s also the time of year when our Carmel Valley Farm Stand is dressed up in its most spectacular finery. And by finery, we mean every kind of organic pumpkin and gourd you can imagine, in bountiful piles all over the grounds, thanks to the vision (and hard work!) of our long-time farm manager, Janna Jo Williams. Locals and visitors alike flock to the Farm Stand for all the organic pumpkin magic Janna makes.
Janna has been growing organic pumpkins at our Farm Stand since 1998 and is known for growing extraordinary heirloom varieties. From smooth to warty. From round to blocky. And from white to green to nearly red. This year she had about 3½ glorious acres of pumpkins. “Being an October baby, I’ve always had an affinity for pumpkins,” said Janna. “I start looking at seed catalogs in January, as soon as the season is over.”
With so many spectacular varieties, we asked Janna to tell us about some of her favorites. “The star this year is Porcelain Doll,” said Janna. “It’s big, blocky, really heavy and pale pink. And the flesh is dark orange and delicious. I just cooked one last week. It’s really good food!”
50% of all sales of these pink Porcelain Doll pumpkins are being donated to The Wendy Baker RN Memorial Fund/Natividad Foundation to help low income women in our home of Monterey County receive breast cancer treatment and support. “We have a long history of prioritizing contributions to our local community and we wanted the sales of these pink pumpkins to support local women with breast cancer,” said Janna.
Here are a few other beautiful and bizarre pumpkins bedazzling the Farm Stand this year. “This year we chose varieties with a focus on food quality,” said Janna. “They are all absolutely delicious.”
Shishigatani: You could call this a Crazy 8 pumpkin because it looks like a double-decker Futsu pumpkin. Or you could call it a Mae West pumpkin – bodacious with a slender waist. Either way, it’s wonderfully warty and deeply furrowed.
Flat White Boer Ford: It’s reminiscent of a Cinderella pumpkin, but with beautiful white skin. If it weren’t for the Gete Okosimin (see below), we might say this was the coolest name on our roster.
Banana squash: Big, elongated pumpkiny-squash
- Guatamalan Blue: Last year’s flavor favorite
- North Georgia Candy Roaster: Pink with a green starburst on the tip
- Gete Okosimin: A beautiful pre-Columbian squash whose seeds were discovered in an ancient seed pot during a 2008 archeological dig near Green Bay, Wisconsin. You can learn more here. In case you’re wondering Gete Okosimin means “really cool old squash” in Anishinaabe, an indigenous Canadian language.
Pennsylvania Crook Neck: Looks like a butternut squash, but you know…with a crook neck.
Speckled Hound: A boxy pumpkin, swirling with green and orange.
Boston Marrow: An old-timey, Hubbard-shaped pie-making squash.
Wolf: Best for jack-o-lanterns, it has a hug, fat stem. In addition to Wolf, we have eight different varieties of jacks, ranging from pie pumpkin size up to enormous.
Polar Bear: You guessed it. It’s big and white.
One too many: Beautiful dappled orange and white pumpkin whose creator thought it looked like a bloodshot eyeball — hence the silly name.
You’ll also find many of the varieties that have devoted local followings: Cinderella, Jarrahdale, Queensland Blue, Silver Hubbard, and Fairy Tale.
In August, Janna led some lucky participants in our annual Pumpkin Scratching workshop. Have you seen those cool scar-like designs on pumpkins? That’s what we’re talking about. You choose a pumpkin that is close to its finished weight and size but with tender skin and lighter color. Then make your design but carefully scratching it into the pumpkin’s skin ever-so-delicately. The pumpkin should ooze a fair amount, but be careful not to go too deep or you’ll wound the pumpkin and cause it to start to rot. Between scratching and harvest, the pumpkin produces a scar to protect itself from the elements and prevent decay. Janna’s favorite tool is simple: a pointy screw with a thick band of duct tape a quarter of an inch from the tip of the screw. It’s sharp enough and also prevents you from going too deep.
Fall Fun Days
In celebration of all things fall, every year we have two weekends of Fall Fun Days with some world-famous pumpkin activities:
- Pumpkin Scramble: A 2-person tag team has 30 seconds to run from the start/finish line to the pumpkin patch. They can grab any pumpkins they want within that 30 seconds and variety of innovative strategies have earned participants impressive pumpkin stashes. Cost is $25 to enter.
- Pumpkin Stacking: Each 3-person team has 5 minutes to select pumpkins and build their stack. It doesn’t hurt to have a structural engineer on your team! At the 5-minute mark, the whistle blows and the stack has to remain standing for 30-seconds unaided. The winning team gets every pumpkin in their stack. The runners up still get to keep their favorite pumpkin. Cost to enter is $10.
Are you in striking distance of Carmel Valley? We have one Fall Fun Day left! Come have a pumpkin patch party with us Saturday, October 26th, 11am at our Carmel Valley Farm Stand (7250 Carmel Valley Road, Carmel Valley). We’d love to see you there.