Punk’d in Pies: Smashing the Pumpkin Shortage Myth

16 Sep

Lauren Van Mullem, Guest Blogger

Maple Pumpkin Tarts with Meringue

I just signed up for Blackmarket Bakery’s October 4th “Falling for Pumpkin” Desserts class – I was sold on it the second I saw “Pumpkin-ginger soufflé” on the itinerary. I love pumpkin. Pumpkin pie, pumpkin-ginger scones, Chef Rachel’s pumpkin whoopie-pies, pumpkin cookies, pumpkin ravioli… you get the idea. Last year, I heard that the pumpkin crops of America had FAILED, a catastrophe that would continue to affect pie supplies this year.

Is there a shortage, or isn’t there?

Last year, pumpkin-lovers like me stockpiled canned pumpkin. I haven’t seen the sales figures, but I’m betting the hysteria did wonders for the pumpkin-farming and canning industries. Conspiracy theories anyone?

A Pumpkin

Here’s the scoop: Eighty to 90 percent of pumpkins grown for canning come from the “Pumpkin Capital of the World,” Morton, Illinois. Last year, Morton was pounded with heavy rains, preventing the pumpkins from being harvested. They rotted in their muddy graves. In the last few years there have been late plantings and fungus infestations, compounding the problem. There really was a shortage.

Lonely Pumpkin Cans from Fall 2009

That was last year. By now, rare cans of pumpkin should be selling on Ebay for fifty-bucks a pop, right? A Washington Post article in June, 2010, reported that Libby’s had just six cans of pumpkin left in their inventory and that a two-pack of 29 oz cans were selling for $30 on Ebay (not quite up to my prediction, but close). However, if you’ve been to an Orange County grocery store recently, there they are, Libby’s canned pumpkin, stacked high on store shelves. So what changed in the last three months?

The weather.

Nestle, which owns Libby’s, tried to ward off another year of shortage by planting more acres this year. Planting season for mid-west pumpkins starts in late June, and since those seeds sprouted, Morton has had perfect weather. There was just enough sun, just enough rain, and just the right temperatures to ensure an early harvest of a bumper crop of big fat pumpkins. Pumpkin patches stretching for miles.

Consider our pie supplies safe.

Sources:

http://www.thebigmoney.com/blogs/daily-bread/2009/12/01/yes-there-really-pumpkin-shortage?page=full

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/06/01/AR2010060100801.html

http://thepacker.com/High-quality-pumpkin-crop-expected/Article.aspx?oid=1237396&fid=PACKER-CROPS-AND-MARKETS&aid=684

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