Revised, December 2015 by Linda Naeve
Pumpkins belong to the Cucurbita genus, along with cucumbers, melons, and squash. However, the term “pumpkin” refers to members of four different species, C. moschata, C. mixta, C. pep, and C. maxima. Pumpkins range in size from less than one pound to more than 1,000 pounds. Miniature-sized pumpkins weigh less than one pound, are marketed fresh and typically are used for decorative purposes. Pie pumpkins range in many sizes, however, the 5- to 10-pound pie pumpkins are most often grown. Pumpkins in the 10- to 25-pound range are primarily used for fall decorations, carved into jack-o-lanterns, but can also be used for processing. Pumpkins above 25 pounds are called giant. Giant pumpkins typically range between 25 to 1,000 pounds in size. The potential size is determined by the variety grown and growing conditions. U.S. annual per capita consumption of pumpkin rose slightly between 2013 and 2014 to 5.39 pounds per person. It is a nutrient-dense crop; a cup of cooked pumpkin provides more than 200 percent of the recommended daily intake of vitamin A, 20 percent of the recommended vitamin C and more potassium than a banana. Roasted and salted pumpkin seeds and hulled kernels, known as pepitas, are becoming a popular and nutritious snack item.
The U.S. pumpkin market is regarded as limited and seasonal. Pumpkins are grown for processing and fresh for ornamental sales through you-pick farms, farmers’ markets and retail sales. Libby’s (owned by Nestlé Company) have almost 90 percent of the North American market for canned pumpkin with 90 percent of it sold in only 4 months, from October to January. The USDA Economic Research Service reports that the demand for fresh specialty pumpkins continues to expand as consumers look for new and interesting variations.
According to the USDA Economic Research Service, over 90,000 acres of pumpkins were grown in the US in 2014, producing 1.5 billion pounds of pumpkins with the top six states (Illinois, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and California) producing approximately percent of them. Approximately 15 percent of the pumpkin acreage is used to make processed pumpkin products. Illinois remains the leading processed pumpkin producing state, producing more than the other 5 leading states combined and about half of the national total. Pumpkin varieties for commercial canning are all Cucurbita. moschata, a tan-colored (rather than orange), firm-fleshed, and elongated fruit. The most common variety used for processed pumpkin is Libby’s Select Dickinson, The average pumpkin yield per acre among the top six states was 22,083 pounds and range from 14,500 to 37,500 pounds.
Retail prices for all pumpkin varieties in 2015, on average, were up for September-October compared with the seasonal average in 2014. The average US farm price for pumpkins was 11 cents per pound in 2014.
Based on average yields per acre and the number of acres planted and farm value of pumpkin production, producers, on average, grossed approximately $2,400 to 2,800 per acre in 2014.
Sources and References
Pumpkins: Background and Statistics (USDA NASS, 2015)
Nutritive Value of Foods (USDA ARS, 2002)
Organic Pumpkin and Winter Squash Marketing and Production (ATTRA, 2010)