Growers offer colorful options to pumpkin fans

Posted: Sunday, October 31, 2004

MADISON, Wis. For purveyors of pumpkins, there's more to life than orange.

While the standard gourd is the staple for jack-o'-lanterns, pies and Thanksgiving tables, seed developers and growers have opened their minds to other colors of the rainbow when it comes to pumpkins.

More and more customers are going right along with them, snatching up pumpkins in shades of red, green, white and even grayish blue. Growers say the interest is fueled by people's desire for something new and their ambition to outdo their neighbors.

"I believe people decorating for Halloween are a little more competitive than they used to be, like it is with the Christmas lights," said Brad Peck, who owns Peck's Farm Markets, located about an hour from Madison.

Peck said his family started raising white pumpkins about 15 years ago, but "almost gave up on them" because sales weren't very strong. "The last five or six years they've really picked up again," he said.

There are more choices on the horizon, with seed companies working to develop the next big thing in pumpkins. Prices are about the same as for orange pumpkins.

Roger Rupp, owner of Rupp Seeds Inc. in Wauseon, Ohio, said the various pumpkin colors are the result of attempts to cross pollinate different varieties of the squash.

"We're amazed at what we find when were searching through God's creation. He surprises us on many occasions," Rupp said.

Rupp said his company is a year or two away from developing pumpkins in shades of pink. "Anything new in the decorative business that's unique, they jump on it right quickly," Rupp said. "They can make profit on it when nobody's ever seen it before."

At the weekly farmers' market on the Capitol square, shopper Susan Watson bee-lined for a stand when she spotted blue pumpkins. She bought one for her sister and another to put on her dining room table.

"I have wallpaper that has this shade in it, so I love it," Watson said.



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