Patrick Administration Celebrates the 2013 Pumpkin Harvest
BOSTON – Wednesday, October 16, 2013 – The Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources (DAR) is proud to announce that pumpkin season is upon us with over 500 farms across the Commonwealth growing pumpkins. Despite the late summer dry spell, early rain made this year’s pumpkin crop bountiful and healthy.
“For decades, pumpkin patches have been central to the fall festivities of families everywhere,” said DAR Commissioner Greg Watson. “Whether you and the family pick that perfect pumpkin, take a hayride or enjoy cider donuts, local farms are ideal for enjoying the best autumn has to offer.”
The Massachusetts harvest is valued at approximately $7.8 million annually. Most Massachusetts farms use their pumpkins for sale to retailers and direct customers, while only three percent of farms in Massachusetts produce pumpkins for processing.
This time of year, many farms offer tours, walking trails, children’s play areas, corn mazes, hayrides, crafts, specialty food items and seasonal produce to explore and enjoy. To find a pumpkin grower near you, visit http://www.mass.gov/agr/massgrown/map.htm.
Farmers have noticed that customers have become increasingly interested in unique, unusual-looking varieties, veering from the traditional sugar and white pumpkins. The sale of heirloom pumpkins has increased, reflecting a rise in decorating using natural and homemade items. Smaller pumpkins and gourds are also gaining popularity in their traditional and unique varieties. Look for colorful varieties such as Red Warty Thing, Jarrahdale, World of Color, Musque de Provence and Pink Peanut to add to your fall décor.
Instead of chucking a pumpkin, try using every bit of this versatile gourd. The flesh, seeds, leaves and flowers are all edible. The possibilities are endless, whether you decide to make soups, pies, breads, candle holders, dog treats or facial masks.
Pumpkins are rich in fiber, potassium, calcium, beta-carotene, vitamin A and C, while the seeds are a great source of vitamin E, protein, iron, manganese and zinc. To maximize your zinc intake, eat the whole unshelled seed. These nutrients and antioxidants are needed for healthy vision, cell and tissue growth and repair, and may also reduce the risk of cancer. The pumpkin seed has antibacterial properties and may also help diabetics with insulin regulation. The pumpkin’s popularity dates as far back as the Aztecs of 1300 AD.
DAR's mission is to ensure the long-term viability of agriculture in Massachusetts. Through its four divisions - Agricultural Conservation & Technical Assistance, Agricultural Markets, Animal Health, and Crop and Pest Services - DAR strives to support, regulate and enhance the rich diversity of the Commonwealth's agricultural community to promote economically and environmentally sound food safety and animal health measures, and fulfill agriculture's role in energy conservation and production. For more information, visit DAR's website at www.mass.gov/agr, and/or follow at twitter.com/MDARcommish.