Plenty of pumpkins on the vine, but not in the can
1:00 pm
Tue October 13, 2009

Plenty of pumpkins on the vine, but not in the can

Web Extra: No canned pumpkin? No problem. Here's what to do...
The North Carolina Department of Agriculture keeps tabs on the state's squash supply and expects pumpkins will be plentiful this year. That is if you want to go to the pumpkin patch and buy one whole. Otherwise, you're out of luck because Libby's which produces most of the country's canned pumpkin is running low on supplies.

"We grow our pumpkin in the area around Morton, Illinois," says Roz O'Hearn, a spokeswoman for Nestle, which owns Libby's. "We have about 5,000 acres there, planted with a special strain of pumpkin seed called the Libby's Select.

"Last year during the 2008 season Mother Nature played an intervening role so we didn't have the size of harvest that we normally have," explains O'Hearn. "So the surplus which carries us through the end of one harvest year and into the start of the next wasn't there for the beginning of this harvest year."

O'Hearn says this year's harvest is just beginning to make it to grocery stores. Come November, she expects shelves to be fully stocked.

But if you're hankering for a Halloween pie, you may have to start from scratch and head down to the pumpkin patch.

"You got here a vegetive pumpkin, a jack o' lantern, and a little pie pumpkin," points out Frank Hodges.

Each October, Hodges opens up his farm in north Mecklenburg County to the pumpkin-buying public.

"Whenever you put a seed in the ground it's like rolling dice and you got to wait 90 days to see what comes up. It's probably the biggest gamble in the world. There's no guarantee," says Hodges.

For Hodges the gamble paid off pretty well this year, but that's because he planted extra. One of his lower fields drowned in too much rain. That's the same thing that hurt Libby's pumpkins last year and harvests in other parts of the country this year.

"All those pumpkin vines in there died and these suffered," says Hodges as he surveys his field. "You can see how these turned white. They're not as beautiful and vegetive as I'd like for them to be. Usually it's our best field because it holds our water better than the higher fields. In this field we probably lost about 75 percent of our production out here because it was just under water and it was cold and the weather was not conducive to growing pumpkins here."

Hodges says that was especially true for the variety of pumpkins used in pies. He expects to run short on those. Luckily, most of his customers are just interested in making jack-o-lanterns and his carving pumpkins grew just fine.

Tags: