Pointer for picking pumpkins: Purchase depends upon purpose

Carving, cooking, or just looking? With more than 250 kinds of pumpkins in Minnesota there are plenty to pick from
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There's probably no other month and vegetable as closely connected as October and pumpkins.

If you'll soon be headed out in search of your own seasonal squash, here are a few suggestions courtesy of the folks at Minnesota Grown, which also has a map of more than 140 pumpkin-growing farms in the state.

Their tips vary depending upon what you plan to do with your pumpkin.

If a Halloween jack-o-lantern is your priority, you'll want one that's firm – soft spots or cracks are signs it might not last until month's end – and has a stem that's at least an inch or two long.

Also, coating the edges of your pumpkin with petroleum jelly or vegetable oil slows its decomposition. So does keeping it out of sunlight.

If your pumpkin is for cooking, remember that smaller ones are generally sweeter and less watery.

If you're getting one especially for a pie, there are certain varieties that are particularly good for that – Sugar Pie, Pink Banana, and Cinderella are a few examples.

And if you're interested in pumpkins for seasonal decoration, don't forget they come in several colors. Some are green, others blue or white and some even have stripes.

250+ varieties

If you want some pumpkin inspiration, you might visit the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum. They're showing off how many different kinds of pumpkins grow in our state.

The U of M's John Thull told WCCO the arboretum has cultivated 10 tons of pumpkins this year in more than 250 varieties (find more on the many kinds of pumpkins here). Thull told the station: “It’s just amazing that in one season — from basically the beginning of May or June — you can produce such a huge fruit in three or four months.”

Huge? You want huge?

Stillwater's annual Harvest Fest was held last weekend and one of the highlights every year is the weighing of the pumpkins.

This time an oversized gourd grown by Chris Qualley of Otsego set a new Minnesota record by tipping the scales at 1,918 pounds. Qualley told KARE 11 that at the peak of pumpkin growing season this summer he was spending 20 hours a day in his garden.

But here's the thing: Qualley's new state record didn't even get the top prize in Stillwater. That went to a pumpkin imported from Ripon, Wisconsin. It weighed 2,106 pounds and measured 19 feet around, the Pioneer Press reports.

If you're interested in trying to grow your own pumpkins for next year, University of Minnesota Extension has lots of lowdown on how to do it.

But if you're heading to a pumpkin patch in search of this year's model, the website OnlyInYourState.com suggests a dozen charming ones across Minnesota.

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