October 27, 2009

Ghostly white pumpkins of the Lunar variety



Pumpkins have become the Christmas trees of fall festivals, the Easter bunnies of Halloween. From jack-o’-lanterns to the formal centerpiece, pumpkins are a focal point of autumn.*

     The discerning autumn bride doesn’t decorate her reception table with just any pumpkin. She places intermixes floral arrangements with traditional orange pumpkins and the Lunar pumpkin, which delight and intrigue her wedding guests.

     If you’ve never seen the Lunar pumpkin you will probably react with disbelief when told about the white beauty with hints of blue on its skin.

     I discovered the Lunar pumpkin at the Green Mead Farm in Ligonier Township, run by Rick and Betty Cairns. There is where the spooky pumpkin can be purchased to grace local Halloween and/or fall decorations.

     Rick, who is constantly on the outlook for new pumpkin varieties, discovered the white pumpkin, “somewhere,” and decided to experiment with growing it. He said he doesn’t “plant that many (white pumpkins) but I get rid of (sells) those I do plant.”

     “We grew a few the first year,” Betty Cairns said about the pumpkin that grows on vines scattered about their fields, intermingled with the traditional orange pumpkin. (to view photo, click on: )

“They’ve grown in popularity every year. Certain people come just for the white pumpkins.”

     Except for their color, the Lunar pumpkin is more similar than different from other pumpkins. They are just as easy to grow, and the vines produce the same number of multiple blooms and pumpkins that ripen in 100 days.

     “Ripeness is determined by color. They are pretty much pure white—not greenish. If they mature too much they almost get a bluish tint,” Rick said. (to view photo, click on: )

     The white pumpkins rival traditional pumpkins in taste, according to Betty, who uses them for cookies and brownies.

     Rick’s mother, Grace Cairns, uses them to make pies. “I’m a cook, but not gourmet cook,” she said, “but I do like to cook with pumpkin. I use the Lunar pumpkin in all my pumpkin pies. There’s not really a different taste.” She also uses the it in bread and “that’s about it”

     “They have a better texture—they’re creamier and easier to mash and cook,” she said.

     Betty said that the meat of the Lunar pumpkin “is not very stringy. It is good and solid.” However, she concedes that their skin is thicker than that on the orange pumpkins. She usually asks her husband Bud Cairns to help slice it.

     “The riper they are the easier they are to cut,” she noted. “I cut them into quarters and put them in the microwave and scrape the meat from the skins.”

     I tested this idea with several young boys, Jared (then 16), Dylan (then 11) and Logan (then 9), challenging them to transform a Lunar pumpkin into a Jack-O-Lantern. The younger boys watched as Jared struggled to cut the top off of his pumpkin, finally succeeding and being rewarded with a view of the insides plentiful seed supply and orange meat. He needed to work diligently to cut a ghost shape from the side of the pumpkin (to view photo, click on:

     The younger boys discovered it is much easier to carve orange pumpkins. The white pumpkin’s tough skin was too much of a challenge for them. They finally handed Jared the cutting tools to complete cutting a traditional pumpkin face. (to view photo, click on:

     Betty doesn’t know if the pumpkins are available anyplace else in the area because she’s never seen them for sale. She does know they are available in eastern Pennsylvania.

     Monte and I also discovered that they are available in New England. When we travel there in the autumn months, we see them along the Atlantic coast roadways between “Downeast” Maine (to view photo, click on:

and Rhode Island (to view photo click on: ).

     Ligonier Valley residents are fortunate to have a local supply of Lunar pumpkins. Carved, they add a ghostly decoration for Halloween. Cooked, they make delicious pumpkin pies for the Thanksgiving dinner table.

*From article for the Georgia Extension Service, written by Terry Kelly


Halloween Night

True Love





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