Picking the perfect pumpkin

The end of September marked the beginning of fall and prime pumpkin season in Shelby County with the opening of Old Baker Farm’s pumpkin patch in Harpersville and many others like it.

With the cooler temperatures comes excitement for the young and young at heart over decorating the perfect jack-o-lantern. For many, there is also glee at the smells of freshly-baked pumpkin pies, pumpkin bread and more.

A few quick steps can find you the perfect pumpkin, according to an article by Dr. Joseph Kemble, an Alabama Cooperative Extension horticulturist.

When you are searching, make one hardy thump. If you hear a hollow sound, the pumpkin is ripe enough to be picked. It’s also important to make sure the pumpkin does have that seasonal, bright orange color to it. A pumpkin that isn’t fully orange probably isn’t ripe. Once they are picked, pumpkins remain the same color.

Kemble’s article also suggests curing the pumpkin by keeping it at 80 to 85 degrees when storing for about 10 days. This not only keeps the pumpkins’ color, but heals wounds and helps ripen the fruit. Kemble wrote that these steps can often keep a pumpkin lively for up to three months. It’s also important when picking a pumpkin, especially for cooking, to watch out for mold or badly bruised spots.

Old Baker Farm is open every weekday from 3 p.m.-dark, Saturdays from 9 a.m.-dark and Sundays from 1 p.m.-dark. The farm will also host its annual Cotton Pickin’ Festival Oct. 25-26 from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. and pumpkins can be picked throughout the day. Asbury United Methodist is also one of many churches hosting patches this year. The church’s patch is open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m.-6 p.m., Saturdays from 8 a.m.-6 p.m. and Sundays from 1-6 p.m.