It’s not really fall until we’re knee deep in a pumpkin patch, searching for the greatest gourd we can gather in two arms. Lucky for us, Northeast Ohio’s crop of farms make it easy and fun to pick a pumpkin and usher in the season.Mapleside Farms
You’ll never run out of things to do at Mapleside Farms, with an acre full of nearly 1,000 pumpkin selections ($.50 per pound). Find a family-oriented environment where adults relax with wine tastings every Friday and Saturday, while their kids play on one of the many attractions, such as the 311-foot slide, corn mazes, cow and pigs rides, and a jump park. Mapleside’s 11-point COVID-19 plan, which includes timed ticketing to keep capacity low, helps make it safe and fun. 294 Pearl Road, Brunswick, 330-225-5577, mapleside.com
Pickering Hill Farms
If you want to channel your inner Charlie Brown and find the next great pumpkin, be sure to check out this Avon spot, which features more than 12 acres and thousands of homegrown pumpkin options ($1-$60) to choose from. Coming in all shapes and colors such as yellow, bright orange, white and even green, the fall festival here every October is perfect for children with a wagon ride and corn maze. Regular temperature checks and constant cleaning around the farm make this a safe bet too. 35669 Detroit Road, Avon, 440-937-5155, pickeringhillfarms.com
While Sirna’s Farm isn’t hosting its annual Fall Fest for the first time in 20 years, you can still visit its roughly 1/4-acre pumpkin patch, featuring up to 500 pumpkins ($2.50-$40). The farm uses environmentally sustainable means such as hydroponic greenhouses (using mineral nutrient solutions instead of soil) to grow fresh, tasty fruits and vegetables without pesky chemicals. 19009 Ravenna Road, Auburn Township, 440-834-0696, sirnasfarm.com
How to Pick a Pumpkin
Sirna's Farm's Kaitlyn Sirna and Pickering Hills Farms owner Jay Pickering us the tips and tricks to picking out a solid pumpkin and keeping it in good shape all month.
General Inspection: Start with the stem. A healthy pumpkin will have a stem that’s sturdy, free of cracks and doesn’t break off easily. And while you should check for blemishes, don’t fret about pumpkins that have dirt or dried mud on them. Just wash it off. "Typically, they're obvious to the eye, so it's not like a tomato or something where it's going to appear after you've taken it home," says Sirna. "Sometimes customers prefer pumpkins with blemishes because they look a little funkier and spookier."
Color Palette: Don’t feel like you need to be locked into the Charlie Brown pumpkin — your classic orange. Shake things up with unconventional colors such as bright yellow, white, tan or green and even those that are technically gourds. Differently colored ones make for great options to paint instead of carving, too. "There are some that are blush pink, which are very trendy right now," says Sirna. "We also have some Cinderella gourds, which are often a sagey-green color, or more white and beige."
Boo-tility: In addition to color, it's important to think about where you're going to place and what you're going to do with your pumpkin when choosing the size of your selection. "If you're stacking them up on a porch, you might want something squatter, so that the center of gravity can handle the stacking," says Sirna. "If you're going to carve a tall ghost or a haunted house scene into a pumpkin, you're probably going to want to look for something more long."
Pumpkin Preserve: If you’re setting your pumpkins out early this month (carved or not), make sure you consider where you’re placing them so they stay in good shape. “If you sit in the grass, it might rot,” says Pickering. “But if you put it on concrete, it’s going to drain a little better. It’ll last longer.”
How To: Cook Pumpkin Seeds
Once the carving’s done, step up your pumpkin seed game by using this recipe from Good to Cafe and Anna in the Raw chef and owner Anna Harouvis, for an endlessly snackable savory treat with just the right kick. “I love spice,” Harouvis says, “and I add these to salads and smoothie bowls for the athletes I prepare food for. It’s great to help your immune system, burn fat and help muscle recovery with anti-inflammatory properties.”
Performance Pumpkin Seeds
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the oven rack in the center position. In a small bowl, add 1 teaspoon olive oil, 1/8th teaspoon of hot sauce, 1/2 teaspoon pink Himalayan salt or sea salt, 1/4 teaspoon fresh ground pepper, 1 teaspoon organic ground turmeric, stir with a whisk. Add in 1 cup of raw pumpkin seeds and make sure to they’re well coated. Once mixed, spread the seeds in a single layer on a baking sheet on top of parchment paper. Bake for 5-8 minutes, until pumpkin seeds start to darken and plump up slightly (you may hear them pop). Remove from the oven and let cool completely. Store in a sealed glass jar or baggie.