It’s no secret that I love Halloween. Perhaps even more than my kids do. I love all holidays, really, but there’s just something wonderful about Halloween. There’s the candy, of course. Then there’s the nationally-sanctioned emphasis on all things gross and macabre. The kids can spend hours debating the perfect costumes. I get to wear my glow-in-the-dark skeleton earrings. What’s not to like?
But this year, a dark specter casts its shadow over the upcoming Halloween festivities, and I don’t like it one bit. This is a (usually) uncomplicated and simple holiday, and while some may say it’s not a big deal, I think it’s a Very Big Deal Indeed.
Have you heard? The grinch trying to steal Halloween this year is… fungus.
Heading out to the pumpkin farm and selecting just the right specimens for jack-o-lanterns may be a part of your family’s tradition, but be advised that this year the pickings may be quite slim (and expensive, to boot):
Two types of fungus or rot have affected crops from the Midwest to New England, causing pumpkins to develop mold in some spots and then begin decomposing, said Daniel Egel, a Purdue University Extension plant pathologist. The entire inside of the pumpkin eventually rots until the shell falls apart.
A combination of high temperatures and record rain in August has helped the fungi flourish, Egel said.
Nina Kent, co-owner of Kent’s Cucurbits in White County, said one variety of her pumpkins has about 85 percent loss because of the rot.
Halloween without pumpkins? Why, that’s like Christmas without Santa Claus. Or America without baseball and apple pie. No, I’m not crying… there’s something in my eye. Stop looking at me.
The pumpkin shortage has actually been a hot topic of conversation ’round these parts. (I live in a small town, okay? Not a lot happens here.) Parents are being encouraged to skip the jack-o-lanterns this year. But I say no. NO! Are we going to let a little fungus stand in the way of our need for holiday-appropriate vegetable decoration? I should hope not.
So. A couple of suggestions: First of all, pumpkin growers are hurting due to the crop loss, so by all means buy pumpkins if you can (assuming they have some healthy ones to purchase). Second, get creative. If you can’t get suitable pumpkins, look to other squash and decorative gourds for your Halloween needs. Craftygal has some great ideas for decorating pumpkins or suitable pumpking substitutes, many of which don’t even involve carving (which has the added bonus of being a bit easier with little ones).
Don’t let the fungus get you down. You need to stay strong, so you, er, I mean, your kids, can get more candy.