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Great pumpkins
Red, white and 'warty' varieites are a treat for Halloween and beyond
By Deborah Donovan | Daily Herald Staff

 

PHOTO BY ANGELA R. TALLEY FROM “FOR THE LOVE OF PUMPKINS”

Peanut -- Officially Galeux d’Eysines, this is pinkish with brown bumps that look like peanuts.

 

Red Warty Thing -- While this is supposed to be good eating, we bet you’ll decorate with it. Red Eye is similar without the warts.

 

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Published: 10/14/2007 5:59 AM

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It's Cinderella time for our favorite squash.

The pumpkin, whose best shot at glamour used to be ending up as a jack-o'-lantern on your front stoop, is now a decorating phenomenon.

A rainbow of colors has joined basic orange in the pumpkin patch.

Red, white, blue and green pumpkins can decorate your table or mantel from Labor Day through Thanksgiving.

Pumpkins have become so elegant, you'll even find them starring in autumn weddings.

The names will impress you, too. Who can resist Blue Moon, Red Warty Thing, Fairytale or Baby Boo.

And yes, pumpkins, squash and gourds are closely related, and sometimes deciding which is which can get controversial.

But it doesn't really matter if you're using them for decoration and don't care whether they're edible.

The bad news is this has not been a good year for growing pumpkins in Illinois. Drought and high temperatures caused a 30 percent drop in production, said Sarah Frey-Talley, chief executive officer of Frey Farms Produce.

With the help of her four older brothers Frey-Talley turned her family's business near Mount Vernon in southern Illinois into arguably the country's largest producer of pumpkins.

This season's poor crop means you might have to pay more for your pumpkins, and you don't want to wait till the last minute if you need some for an event.

Autumn Couleur is Frey-Talley's name for a bin of about 15 different pumpkin varieties in popular shapes and colors that her company has shipped to big box and grocery stores around the country.

"We've been doing this for four or five years, and they finally caught on," she said. "These are heirloom varieties you would find at New England roadside stands. It's one of our best sellers."

Frey-Talley is also author of a new book about pumpkin lore, "For the Love of Pumpkins." Photos in the book of decorating, recipes and history are by her sister-in-law, Angela R. Talley.

How-to projects in the book include a three-pumpkin fountain, a candelabra and vases. Weddings call for white pumpkins decorated with glitter, pearls and flowers.

The book is available at Wal-Mart Super Center stores in the produce section for $7.97 and on eBay.com.

So why are pumpkins so popular? Why now? Is it because Halloween has become such a big deal?

"I think that it's just people always want something new and different and exciting, and it's such an extended decorating season," said Frey-Talley.

Here are some stars of the pumpkin patch:

Australian Jarrahdale -- A very attractive blue or gray green. Another blue pumpkin is Blue Moon.

Fairytale -- Flat, deeply scalloped and buckskin colored, officially called Musquee de Provence. Similar to Rouge Vif d'Estampes, the one that reportedly inspired Cinderella's coach.

Red Warty Thing -- While this is supposed to be good eating, we bet you'll decorate with it. Red Eye is similar without the warts.

Baby Boo -- Small and white, great for painting. Cotton candy and Caspar are larger, and Full Moon is huge.

Peanut -- Officially Galeux d'Eysines, this is pinkish with brown bumps that look like peanuts.