Posted by: Kath Usitalo | October 28, 2009

Got Pumpkin?

Pumpkin roadsid_5274

Roadside pumpkin stand on a farm near Gregory

Pumpkins are central to our Halloween tradition and Thanksgiving heritage, and very much a part of the Great Lakes region’s autumn landscape. Illinois, the nation’s top pumpkin producer, each year harvests almost 500 million pounds of the Jack O’Lantern material and holiday pie essential.

More pumpkin fun facts:
- LIBBY’S introduced canned pumpkin in 1929, and estimates 50 million pumpkin pies are baked with its product each year
- pumpkins originated in Central America
- pumpkins are a source of potassium and Vitamin A
- the Jack O’Lantern stemmed from an Irish legend about “Stingy Jack,” who carried a glowing in a hollowed out turnip
- pumpkins are 90% water
- cucurbitophobia is a fear of pumpkins; apocolocynposis is a fear of turning into a pumpkin
- pumpkins are fruit
-I love to cook pumpkin and will share recipes here in the coming weeks

Michigan grows a sizeable number of pumpkins but also contributes some colorful characters to the world of pumpkins, like Pumpkin Ed of Frankfort.  A self-described master pumpkin carver, Pumpkin Ed takes his knife out each autumn to create Jack O’ Lanterns so large that he needs a forklift and truck to move them.  He says he does it just for the grins that his creations bring to people.

Pumpkin honor system_5279

Gene the Pumpkin Man has been growing the thick-skinned fruit on his family’s Centennial Farm near Kalamazoo since 1957.  A trip to his pumpkin patch is an annual tradition for generations who go out of their way to choose their pumpkin and to see the orange Cadillac, orange truck, and orange tractor that have helped make this farm a local landmark.  Most weekends you can say hello to the Pumpkin Man himself as Gene Rhodes, decked out in his trademark custom-made orange Stetson hat, chats with visitors.

The pumpkin promoter just happens to like the color orange, and realized early on that it made a memorable marketing tool.  “If you don’t advertise the bankruptcy court will do it for you,” he believes.  You may want to pick up Gene the Pumpkin Man’s recipe book and the children’s book his wife wrote about him.

Pumpkin Extreme _2074_109671710

Extreme Pumpkins says, “Pumpkin carving has been reborn. This time it is a little bit deformed.”

Tired of the traditional, loopy-looking Jack O’Lantern with triangular eyes and jagged toothy grin?  Tom Nardone’s Extreme Pumpkins Web site will inspire you to pick up the power tools and carve the big orange orbs into wormy, radioactive, puking, bloody, electrocuted, or cannibalistic creatures.

Nardone, a Detroit area husband, father, entrepreneur and author of 2 books on pumpkin carving and his latest book, “Extreme Halloween; The Ultimate Guide to Making Halloween SCARY Again,” has showcased “the lowest of the low brow art” on Regis & Kelly, the Travel Channel, and Good Morning America.

His site also offers pumpkin carving patterns, pumpkin preservation tips, and pumpkin seed recipes. And some of the sickest Jack O’Lanterns imaginable in the annual Pumpkin Contest he conducts.

Warning: Some of the pumpkin designs are graphic, disgusting, and may frighten little kids…and if you carve and display one may cause their parents to wonder whether they should take treats from you—-or even approach your house.

More candy for you.

SHAMELESS SELF PROMOTION: Check out my pix and quote about Fayette Historic State Park at Michigan Travel Idea’s FB item “Spooky Spectacles,” lifted from my Pure Michigan blog post about a UP journey.

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