There’s nothing more festive at Halloween than a carved pumpkin. This vibrant fruit, with its ‘scary face’ carvings aka the jack-o-lantern, was first established in Ireland in the early 19th century. Now, it’s become a tradition adopted by millions of families across the world.
However in recent years, it isn’t just about the carving process anymore. Families are now turning to local farms with ‘Pick Your Own’ (PYO) pumpkin patches to add to the festivities of Halloween, instead of simply buying them from a supermarket.
I wanted to find out more about this new tradition and so - armed with my comfy pair of Bamford boots and 2-year-old daughter, Neiva – I decided to set off to Canalside Farm in Staffordshire to see what it was all about and to join in the fun.
Canalside Farm is a quaint family-run business that was established 35 years ago by husband and wife, Chris and Wendy Barton. They’ve predominantly been a strawberry, plants and kitchen vegetable picking farm, however in 2017 they decided to try their hands at pumpkins.
Last year saw the farm grow around 2,000 pumpkins for Halloween. It turned out to be so successful that this year, they’ve grown over 4,000 and are on track to sell out.
WHY SO POPULAR?
I met up with Anna, daughter-in-law to Chris and Wendy, who runs the retail part of the business who explained why she thinks PYO pumpkins has become so popular: “I think it’s because it’s getting families out into nature and doing something fun that’s also in-expensive. Rather than going to a shop to buy a pumpkin, families are making this experience part of their Halloween traditions.”
Anna went onto explain: “As well as pumpkin picking, we also hold Halloween-themed events for families with puzzles, games and face-painting to make it a fun-filled day out.”
All the pumpkins at the farm must take time to prepare so I met up with Wendy who told me more about how the pumpkins are grown.
HOW PUMPKINS ARE GROWN
She explained: “We start our pumpkin-growing process in April, this is when we sow the seeds and then plant them in May. They grow over the summer and once the greenery starts to die away in October, we know then that the pumpkins are ready to be picked.”
The pumpkins found at Canalside Farm grow in all shapes and sizes - ones that are the size of your hand to ones that weigh over 16kg.
Not having been to a pumpkin patch before, my daughter and I were amazed at how many pumpkins there were in all different varieties. It was beautiful to see the vibrancy of the bright orange against the green grass.
After walking the lengths of the different rows, wheelbarrow in hand, Neiva decided her favourite pumpkin was one of the smallest in the patch…I on the other hand, put some nice big ones in ready for carving that evening.
I think PYO pumpkins is something we will make as a new Halloween family tradition. It was a delight to visit Canalside Farm and we look forward to visiting again in the future.