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Plentiful pickins' for pumpkins this fall

Savannah Dillender, an employee at Woodbine Farm Market, places a pumpkin on a crate outside their display on John Marshall HIghway at Lebanon Church on Friday evening. Rich Cooley/Daily

Pumpkin facts

• Pumpkin flowers can be eaten, and the seeds roasted. • Early settlers used pumpkins — which came from Central America — in pies' crusts, not in filling. • Pumpkins can be used in animal feed. • Native Americans roasted long strips of pumpkins over fires and dried pumpkin strips to make mats. They ate the seeds and used them for medicine. • Pumpkins can weigh anywhere from less than a pound to more than a half-ton. • Pumpkins are fruit.

Source: The Virginia Pumpkin Growers Association

By Sally Voth

The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services is reporting a strong pumpkin crop this fall, which local farm markets confirmed Friday.

Kevin Semones, secretary and treasurer of the Virginia Pumpkin Growers Association, stated in a VDACS news release, "The traditional orange jack-o-lantern pumpkins are the biggest I've ever seen, and we've had great sales of specialty pumpkins."

The prime pumpkin patch in Virginia is the southwest portion of the state, according to the release, which says there are about 3,000 acres commonwealth-wide devoted to pumpkins, gourds, squash and "other Halloween-related items."

More than 5 million larger pumpkins are harvested each year, it states.

"We had a good year," Randy Jenkins, whose wife is one of the owners of Woodbine Farm Market in Lebanon Church, said Friday afternoon. "The quality is pretty good this year. We almost had too much rain for pumpkins."

Woodbine grows different varieties of pumpkins, as well as gourds. Their colorful names include cotton candy, Cinderella, howden, neon, pic-a-pie, bat wing, Turk's turban and daisy, Jenkins said.

"We had a little bit of everything," he said. "[Customers] enjoy a variety. We just pile them in a bin and just let them get whatever they want, like three for a dollar."

In Woodstock, Mowery Orchard owner Tom Bullock grows some pumpkins himself and buys more from other farmers. Most of his pumpkins are the types that make for good jack-o-lanterns, although he offers a variety.

"It's a good crop this year," Bullock said. "We got rain late enough when we really needed it. They turned out really well. We try to go and have a large variety, though. We just enjoy it. It's fun."

According to the VDACS release, other fanciful gourd and pumpkin names include Patsy Kline, gladiator, magic lantern, lunch lady, bunch of warts and Long Island cheese. It states that Virginia's crop was better than other regional states, and that pumpkins are scarce in the Midwest this year.

Contact staff writer Sally Voth at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or svoth@nvdaily.com

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