Lisa Schaefer of Schaefers and Collins Pumpkin Patch and Farm in Mayflower would be the first to admit that pumpkins are a high-maintenance crop. But she and her family, having grown them on their farm for the past 12 years, work hard to keep their 30-acre pumpkin patch beautiful and healthy. And they most certainly know how to enjoy the fruits of their labor, whether incorporating pumpkins into their fall décor or welcoming thousands of guests and elementary students for field days each October. “A lot of the kids from the city don’t get to come out into the country very much,” Schaefer explains. “It’s a whole new world for them.”
While at the Schaefers and Collins Farm, which offers a wide variety of other produce as well, guests of all ages have the opportunity to mingle with barnyard animals, go on a picnic, hop on a hayride and pick pumpkins straight from the vine. Mid-September marks the beginning of harvest-time and by opening day in late September, pumpkins of all colors and sizes are ripe for the choosing. “We grow Jack B. Littles all the way up to 200-pound prize winners,” Schaefer notes, suggesting miniature or medium-sized pumpkins for visitors. Beyond that, she says it’s about personal taste. “Some people like the prettiest pumpkin they can find and some like the ugliest,” she laughs.
True to the Schaefers and Collins motto, “From the land, not from a can,” Schaefer offers tips on using pumpkins in fall recipes, as well as ideas for carving and decorating. “You can throw a pumpkin display together in a matter of minutes,” our expert says.
Pumpkin Tips and Tidbits
- For the best pies, Schaefer suggests pale green Jarrahdales, which have a delicious flesh. The striped green and orange Kakai variety yields the best-tasting roasted seeds, which she likes to sprinkle with garlic powder or Cajun seasoning.
- Cut a hole in the bottom rather than the top of your pumpkin to remove seeds, and make a square incision by the stem to allow smoke to escape. Then place the pumpkin over the top of the candle. Schaefer explains, “A lot of people burn themselves when lighting candles or trying to place candles inside the pumpkin.”
- Beautify your birdbath by placing a medium-sized pumpkin in the center, topped off with raffia and surrounded by smaller gourds.
- Use miniature Jack B. Little pumpkins as candleholders indoors.
- Transform medium-sized pumpkins into vases. Simply cut a hole in the top and remove the seeds, pour in a little bit of water, then place some florist’s foam to hold live flowers. “A lot of florists buy pumpkins for that purpose to use for fall weddings,” Schaefer says.
- Schaefer stacks up eye-catching Cinderella and Fairytale pumpkins to place by her front door. She suggests alternating with different colored pumpkins and accenting with moss and raffia.
- “Once punctured, pumpkins have a three-day life span,” Schaefer explains, but if you have uncarved pumpkins leftover after fall, stack them like a snowman and paint them white.