The Great American Pumpkin Shortage
You may have heard by now about the shortage we are about to have on the seasonal pumpkin. We made it through the Halloween season without a problem and the Thanksgiving season has only experienced a minor interruption in total availability. I hope you had your fill of pumpkin related foods, since the real shortage starts now.
The American crop of pumpkins is about half of what the normal yield is... The harvest also ended weeks earlier than normal, which means the production on canned products is probably on hiatus until next year’s fall season. This did not affect the Halloween pumpkin since this pumpkin is a different breed than the ones used in commercial production of pumpkin products. If you like pumpkin throughout the year you should go to the store and scoop up any canned pumpkin that might be left on the shelves. The Libby Corporation, which produces 80% of the processed pumpkin in the United States, is the leading brand of pureed and processed pumpkin. If you find a shortage of Libby products, or any other brand in a traditional market, you may want to try Trader Joe’s, which sources its house-branded puree from Oregon family farmers who have had a bumper crop on their orange-stained variety this year.
90% of the canned pumpkin, which is produced by the Sugar Pumpkin, comes from Illinois which experienced very heavy rains this year. Almost all of the pumpkins come from a dozen family farms that surround the one commercial processing plant in the United States. The pumpkin shortage is just one of the worldwide shortages being blamed on changing climate in the United States and around the world. Some other examples include a coffee shortage blamed on higher temperature in the growing environment of the coffee bean plants. These plants can be moved to higher grounds creating cooler climates but one can imagine the challenge associated with moving all of the coffee plants, the cost as well as the time needed for moving them as well as letting them acclimate to the new environment. Another example is the reduction in the production of chocolate due to drier weather in Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire in the Ivory Coast where the cacao tree is grown in abundance. Another vice being affected by the change in worldwide temperature is beer, due to an endangered hops supply. Water shortages have affected the growth and yield of hops plants as each plant requires up to three gallons of water per day. Washington State grows over 70% of the country’s hops and they are under watering restrictions due to the drought with 98.5% of the state under a severe drought warning.
There have been shortages of a variety of lettuces in the United States every year for the last three years, but this only yielded a short term price increase for those varieties. The science of growing crops is so detailed that if the lettuce crop is cut short due to heat or rain the growers can tell you exactly when the shortage will end and the prices will return to normal because they understand the growth cycle of the products they grow. The difference between lettuce and the other crops is the growing time of these products. While it takes lettuce about 70 days to reach maturity although hydroponically it can take only 3 weeks, it could take many years to replant the cacao and coffee plants while the regrowth of the pumpkins cannot happen until the next season.
Pumpkins, a member of the gourd family, have very little nutritional value. It contains no fat, but also contributes very little nutritional value other than potassium and vitamin A. Pumpkins can grow on six of the seven continents, excluding Antarctica. They also grow well in Alaska during the growing season.
Pumpkin carving has been around for a long time, originating in Ireland where they carved turnips. When they immigrated to the United States they found pumpkins plentiful and they also found them much easier to carve than a turnip. The largest pumpkin ever in the United States was grown in Illinois and weighed 2,145 pounds. It took 93 days to reach that weight. This was dwarfed by the size of the largest in the world, measured in Switzerland and weighing 2,323 pounds.