Fruit & Vegetable Magazine

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Wet Prairie weather leaves gourds green


September 27, 2010
By The Canadian Press

Topics

September
27, 2010, Regina, Sask – Trick-or-treaters searching for the Great Pumpkin
might be out of luck this year as cool, wet conditions on the Prairies
have stunted growth and left the gourds green.

September
27, 2010, Regina, Sask – Trick-or-treaters searching for the Great Pumpkin
might be out of luck this year as cool, wet conditions on the Prairies
have stunted growth and left the gourds green.

Instead
of a bright-orange rind and pulpy flesh, many pumpkins are on the verge of
becoming a mushy mess. That’s because they love warm, sunny weather – something
that was in short supply across much of Alberta, Saskatchewan and parts of
Manitoba this summer.

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Eva
Lewicki says she hasn’t been able to grow a contender for the annual Great
White North Pumpkin Fair
in Smoky Lake, Alta.

“To
grow for the fair … you plant two or three seeds and … you grow one
humongous pumpkin on the vine. That’s what we’re trying to do and this year is
not a good year,” she says.

“It
has been too cold.”

Lewicki,
who has been with the Smoky Lake Pumpkin Growers Association for 20 years, says
the trouble started in the spring when the plants didn’t get a good start. They've
been “very delayed” ever since.

Smoky
Lake, about 120 kilometres northeast of Edmonton, bills itself as the pumpkin
capital of Alberta. People from across Western Canada haul their gourds to the
fair every October, hoping to vie for
the prize for the heaviest. Last year, a local grower set a new weight
record  – a hefty 1199.2 pounds, or
543.9 kilograms.

Lewicki
predicts there may not be a record-setting in 2010.

The
situation is also grim in Saskatchewan, which was hit hard by floods last
spring and summer.

Lloyd
Anticknap is keeping a close eye on the pumpkin patch at his family's business
near Craven, just north of Regina. Frontier Gardens usually has 9,000 to 13,600
kilograms of pumpkins – each weighing about 4.5 kilograms.

Usually
the pumpkin harvest would be over for Frontier Gardens by now. “This year, I
only have … maybe 6,000 pounds (2,721 kilograms) in, and the rest is still in
the field and they’re green still,” Anticknap said.

“If
we do’'t get sunshine to ripen them up, they'’l stay out there. Fertilizer for
next year.''

A
killing frost last weekend across a wide swath of Alberta and Saskatchewan did
some damage and some pumpkins will turn to mush. Anticknap says the business
will have to absorb the loss.

“Itll
be pretty steep, a few thousand dollars probably or higher. Depends on the
price of pumpkins this year.''

But
he’s still hopeful that Environment Canada's
forecast of temperatures in the low 20s will help.

“If
we do see sunshine … coming up and we don’t see frost for two weeks, who
knows? The pumpkins might turn around and they might all mature. Then we'd have
more pumpkins than we need.”

Lewicki
is also optimistic. She believes the fair, which takes place Oct. 2 this year,
will be good regardless of how big the pumpkins get.

“It
doesn’t matter. I have lots of fun. I dress up as a pumpkin and away I go.”