Where Did the Pumpkin in Your Pie Come From?

Did you ever stop to wonder where the fresh pumpkin in your puree or pie comes from? Wonder no longer.

It’s pumpkin season — time to pick up a few big orange beauties at your local grocery store, farmers market, farm or roadside stand, carve them into scary (or goofy) jack-o’-lanterns, pop in some candles and show off your creativity to the whole neighborhood. It’s also the time of year we enjoy making from-scratch pumpkin pie, fresh pumpkin puree and pumpkin bread with real shredded pumpkin.

Still, though we love them, most of us take our gourds for granted. To remedy that, the Washington Post’s Wonkblog took a look at where America’s pumpkins come from, crunching numbers from the U.S. Agricultural Census as if they were fresh roasted pumpkin seeds. (Yum.)

Here are a few takeaways from the paper’s pumpkin-parsing post:
  • About 90,165 acres of farmland across the United States were used to produce pumpkins in 2012, Wonkblog’s Christopher Ingraham reports. He figures that a single acre can yield about 3,000, meaning that about 270 million pumpkins were harvested nationwide that year. That’s an impressive number of squash.
  • Pumpkins are grown in many regions across the country, allowing many of us to buy them from local sources. However, the biggest harvests are concentrated in the Northeast and in parts of the West Coast, and there’s a big swath of the middle of the country — from Montana swerving down through Florida — in which few pumpkins are produced. Ingraham dubs this squash-bereft belt the “Great Pumpkin Desert.”
  • The U.S. country that produces the most pumpkins is Tazewell County, Ill., which farmed 4,669 acres of pumpkins in 2012. Coming in second is San Joaquin County, Calif., which farmed 3,441 acres, followed by Mason County, Ill. (2,627 acres), Wayne County, Ill. (1,547 acres), Peoria County, Ill. (1,323 acres), and Stark County, Ill. (1,068 acres), in third, fourth, fifth and sixth place, respectively.

By the way, Illinois is not only the world’s top producer of pumpkins, but the leading processor as well: About 80 percent of the world's canned pumpkin is packed at the Libby's factory in Morton, Ill.

Maybe the state should change its nickname from the “Land of Lincoln” to the “Land of Pumpkin”? It’s a thought ...

Photo courtesy of iStock
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