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Published: 10/29/2004

White pumpkins gaining; watch for blue, green ones

BY MARY-BETH McLAUGHLIN
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER
Walter Keil, of Louis Keil Jr. & Sons farm, displays a white pumpkin nestled among traditional orange ones. Walter Keil, of Louis Keil Jr. & Sons farm, displays a white pumpkin nestled among traditional orange ones.
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Pumpkin shoppers tired of choosing between orange, orange, and orange are starting to get choices.

More area farm markets and pumpkin patches this year report selling white pumpkins for roughly $1 more than the orange ones. But that's only the beginning.

A Wauseon seed supplier who sells to customers across the country said he's in the process of developing pumpkins that are blue, light green, and white with pink and blue backgrounds. Those Halloween decoration should start appearing at retail outlets in two years.

"You can segregate seeds into all different sorts of genetic arrangements and in the process, you usually throw the odd stuff away. We don't," said Roger Rupp, of Rupp Seeds Inc. in Wauseon. The firm is breeding new varieties of pumpkins, gourds, squash, and other products.

Walter Keil, of Louis Keil Jr. & Sons near Swanton, estimates he grew 500 of the white pumpkins this year and has sold more than half of them.

"People just love them," he said. "The kids can use black markers on them, rather than having to carve them, and it shows up really great.

"I call them ghost pumpkins because it sounds more like Halloween than white pumpkin."

He planted some pumpkins later in the season to have green ones to sell to people looking for something different, but that color hasn't caught on as well as the white, he said. "I might sell one in 50, to some woman who wants a white pumpkin, a green pumpkin, and an orange one on her porch," he said.

Trying to come up with unique and different ways to decorate for Halloween is in keeping with the holiday's growing popularity among Americans. The National Retail Federation found in a survey that people will spend $3.1 billion this holiday, up from nearly $3 billion last year. More than half of those responding said they planned to buy decorations.

The white pumpkins are usually smaller and do not grow as plentiful as the traditional orange ones, said growing experts.

Bob Precheur, an Ohio extension vegetable crops specialist, said about 5,000 acres in the state are devoted to the growing of pumpkins, with the majority being the typical orange variety.But, he added, he has seen enough outdoor displays this year with white pumpkins to predict consumers are ready for more variety.

John Monnette Sr., founder of the Monnette's Produce Markets in the Toledo area, estimated he ordered about 200 white pumpkins for the Tremainsville Road location, priced slightly higher than the regular pumpkins, and he has only about 20 left.

"People think it's unique, that it signifies the ghost," he said.

But that's about as far as Mr. Monnette is willing to go. Asked about his thoughts on pink and blue pumpkins and he is quick to respond."That would appeal to me as much as green ketchup. It just doesn't fit," he said.

Contact Mary-Beth McLaughlin at

mmclaughlin@theblade.com

or 419-724-6199.



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