It’s time to find the perfect pumpkin for your Halloween celebrations. We ask local experts for their tips on visiting pumpkin patches in Scotland this October.
There are pumpkin patches galore across Fife, Perthshire, Angus, Aberdeenshire and the Highlands, and tickets are selling out fast.
From Cononsyth near Arbroath, to Broadslap near Dunning and Cairnie Fruit Farm in Fife to Westerton Farmers, Laurencekirk and Udny Pumpkins in Ellon, they’re all preparing to host avid pumpkin pickers.
But what should you look out for when you’re there and picking the perfect pumpkin?
From Crown Princes and Harlequins to Zombies and Knukleheads, Udny Pumpkins, near Ellon, has all shapes, sizes and colours.
“The first thing is to decide what you want the pumpkin for. If you want it for carving you probably want something that’s big enough with a decent-sized face area,” explains Jenny Fyall, owner of the firm.
“Lots of children come here and they’re really excited by finding the biggest pumpkin they possibly can. Adults, too, as there are some incredible pumpkin carvers out there.
“We have tall ones that you could make something quite different out of.
“Other people are looking at them for displaying. It’s quite fun for children to paint them and that way they last longer. As soon as you cut into a pumpkin it immediately starts to rot.”
Tips for choosing a good-quality pumpkin:
- Examine your pumpkin – ensure there are no bits that are going mushy.
- Pumpkins tend to begin to rot from the stalk area at the top, so push your fingers around this part to ensure there’s no softness.
- Turn it over and look at the bottom. It may look beautiful, but a rotten patch might be lurking underneath.
Cooking your pumpkin
Kept whole, Jenny says a pumpkin can last up to six months for display purposes. You can also store them in a cold, dark place for a up to three months and eat them afterwards.
For pickers interested in eating pumpkin, Jenny says cooks should avoid big traditional orange pumpkins as they can be a bit watery and aren’t the best for cooking.
Jenny adds: “You get some that taste absolutely incredible. I’ve got this new variety called Little Gem and they look a bit like dark green cricket balls. They’re really small and not impressive but when I tasted one they were great.
“You can cut them in half, put them in the microwave. They’re done in three minutes, a bit of butter. They’re so delicious.”
The Udny Pumpkin patch runs from October 16 to 27 and is sold out.
This year, Westerton Farmers near Laurencekirk is running a pick-your-own patch as well as weekend harvest markets.
Owner Fiona Smith, grows a variety of pumpkins both for eating and carving.
As a business the farm is focused on reducing waste so Fiona advises those purchasing pumpkins to carve, to try making some dishes with the seeds and flesh.
Fiona said: “The carving variety that we use is quite tasty. You can get some tasteless, watery pumpkins.
“We try to get the balance right between a decent size for carving but also to be able to use either for drying out the seeds or using the flesh for soups or curries.
“There are quite a few squashes and gourds as well. We have Crown Prince, which is a gorgeous grey-blue colour. The insides are deep orange and it’s very meaty and good for pies and curries.”
Think before you visit
Fiona advises people to have a think about what they want ahead of visiting the pumpkin patch.
“As a general rule, the bigger ones won’t be so tasty so the slightly smaller varieties might be better if you want to eat them.
“They’re also amazing to use as a soup bowl. You can carve out the middle and put in a soup as a starter or something Halloween-y.”
The Westerton Farmers patch is open daily from October 16 to October 31. Booking is essential.
Harvest Markets will run alongside the pick-your-own pumpkins on the weekends of October 23 to 24 and October 30 to 31.
Ask for guidance
Cairnie Fruit Farm’s ever-popular pumpkin patch near Cupar, Fife has already sold out.
Outdoor manager Radu Moldovan says pumpkin picking is all down to individual requirements.
“It’s up to each individual what they are looking for. We’re hoping it’s going to be a good experience for everyone as we are sold out,” he explains.
“Normally we do guide people and we have someone in the patch who can answer questions. We are happy to provide any support we can.
“If you are carving then go for the traditional orange or green pumpkins. The white, yellow or striped ones are good for decoration.”