Perusing the Pumpkin Patch

After ten years of life abroad sans an authentic jack o’lantern, I was delighted to awaken my Halloween spirit by visiting a veritable American pumpkin patch last autumn, following a splendid long weekend in Napa Valley.

The California farm’s scruffy scarecrows, colorful gourds, and pumpkins transformed into storybook characters brought to mind some of my favorite Halloween childhood memories: everything from dressing up as The Wizard of Oz’s Dorothy (sporting Mom’s wedding shoes, which she’d adorned with thick squares of red glitter; dog Jenny even trick-or-treated with me in a basket) to entering a chicken pox-stricken pumpkin donning a glass thermometer into my elementary school’s pumpkin contest.

Here in Germany, Halloween is only occasionally celebrated, particularly in expat communities. Still, we’ve rounded up some of our favorite Halloween candies and memories of Halloweens past to make merry, along with some European autumn-inspired twists like Italian Risotto with Butternut Squash.

How are you celebrating tonight? What are some of your fondest memories of October 31st?

Halloween Pumpkin Farm California

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The more diminutive pumpkins, dubbed ‘Apprentice Pumpkins.’
Pumpkin Farm California 8

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Pumpkin Farm California 4

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Halloween Pumpkin Farm California 4

Halloween Pumpkin Farm California 5

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Where in the World?

Photography & text © Tricia A. Mitchell. All Rights Reserved.

Published by Tricia A. Mitchell

Tricia A. Mitchell is a freelance writer and photographer. Born in Europe but raised in the United States, she has lived in Valletta, Malta; Heidelberg, Germany; and Split, Croatia. An avid globetrotter who has visited more than 65 countries, she has a penchant for off-season travel. Tricia has learned that travel’s greatest gift is not sightseeing, rather it is the interactions with people. Some of her most memorable experiences have been sharing a bottle of champagne with distant French cousins in Lorraine, learning how to milk goats in a sleepy Bulgarian village, and ringing in the Vietnamese New Year with a Hanoi family. She welcomes any opportunity to practice French and German, and she loves delving into a place’s history and artisanal food scene. A former education administrator and training specialist, Tricia has a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and a master’s degree in international relations. She and her husband, Shawn, married in the ruins of a snowy German castle. They’ve been known to escape winter by basing themselves in coastal Croatia or Southeast Asia. Her writing has appeared in Fodor’s Travel, Frommer’s, and International Living.

39 thoughts on “Perusing the Pumpkin Patch

    1. Marilyn, having experimented in cooking a few autumn foods this year (Hokkaido and Butternut Squash), I’m wondering what inviting dishes could be made with some of the varieties from this pumpkin farm. Did you make any special autumn treats this year? Thanks, as always, for dropping by, and I also wanted to mention that your site’s URL is not featured on your Gravatar so it’s tricky getting there. :)

    1. That’s kind of you to say, Patty, and it means a lot – especially coming from a talented photographer like you. :) Do you make it to Napa often? Last fall was my first time. It’d be hard to top that long weekend in Napa & Sonoma, but I do hope to return someday soon.

      1. I visit Napa maybe once or twice a year. One of my favorite stops is Oxbow Public Market. I’m mildly addicted to Three Twins organic ice cream and I always get a double scoop of their pistachio in a waffle cone. Yum!

    1. Lynne, ‘Red Warty Thing’ and its lookalikes made me wonder how pumpkin farmers achieve that look. One article said such pumpkins are genetically engineered to become warty and that it might take 10 generations (or more) of cross-breeding to achieve wart status. :) Did you get to celebrate Halloween this year, or were you recovering from your road-trip?

    1. They sure are, Phil! Here in Germany, I saw similar diversity at an annual pumpkin fest at a castle. The year we went to the fest, they’d fashioned various dinosaurs out of pumpkins and gourds. This year, I heard they had a sports theme. Did you get into any Halloween mischief this year? :)

  1. That looks such great fun. Haloween is still celebrated here, though not as much as previously. We call it guising. And as pumpkins are not grown in Scotland our lanterns are gouged out of large Swede turnips (so are smaller than pumpkin ones). As well as hands becoming sore with cuts in an effort to scoop out the centre, the house tends to smell of turnip for days after – a kind of overcooked cabbage smell. Nor does the weather tend to be so good. With the clock going back we’re now into dull, wet and windy autumn days. Ugh!

    1. Dorothy, so sorry I missed this comment earlier – it appears to have been diverted to my spam folder. I really enjoyed learning about Scotland’s penchant for using Swede turnips for pumpkins! Did you carve one for Halloween?

      Here’s hoping those wet, windy autumn days have now transitioned into sunny winter ones. :)

  2. Love these pictures. They remind me of the pumpkin patch my family used to have. We opened to the public every fall and had hayrides, pumpkin painting, baked goods for sale, as well as pumpkins, gourds, cornstalks, mums, etc. It was such a great way to spend our fall, and the kids have so many good memories. Unfortunately, after my step-father died, it was too much to keep up. No one would ever guess how much work goes into growing a pumpkin crop. But we have aour memories and love fall when we remember it all so vividly.

    1. Juliann, thank you for sharing your delightful Halloween memories. Growing up on a pumpkin patch (or with one in a family) sounds like a child’s dream! Having never grown a pumpkin before, I’m curious. About how long does it take? You must have a great many pumpkin recipes up your sleeve too? :)

    1. Annette, speaking of pumpkins, two autumns ago we went to the Kürbisausstellung in Ludwigsburg. What a delightful time we had seeing the pumpkins fashioned into dinosaur-themed sculptures, and enjoying the pumpkin-infused food (everything from pumpkin soup and pumpkin pasta to pumpkin popcorn). Do you have your own garden in which you grow veggies? We’ve been enjoying butternut squash and brussel sprouts in Oberammergau this year (not home grown, but from the local market).

      1. Yes, Tricia, I’ve got my own gardens and grow everything I can at our elevation (the growing season is almost 2 months shorter than in the lower elevations of Virginia).
        I recently made a delicious pastry with a pumpkin whipped cream filling – it was really, really good :-)

  3. I really enjoyed this pumpkin post. We had a nice Halloween with friends in Toronto. We wanted Maggie to experience a North American Halloween before she was too old. Job done :)

  4. Napa Valley is a beautiful place to visit. There are a lot of great wineries there.

    It must have been a lot of fun at the pumpkin patch.

    Your pictures are very nice.

    1. Gerard, good wine, family and a pumpkin patch visit – that epitomizes the perfect autumn weekend. :) I recall you mentioning that you went to a winery in NY this year. Did you go back during the grape harvest too?

  5. A very interesting post–loved the photos. Just sent my son, who is teaching in Argentina, the recipe for good old pumpkin pie, which he plans to bake for his ex=pat teaching buddies who are homesick for all our autumn rituals.

    1. Carol, Würzburg and its vineyards must have been stunning in the autumn! That’s a spot I’d like to get back to. We were most recently there last spring, but the flora was just starting to re-awaken after the long winter.

  6. Tricia, glorious photographs of all that makes Halloween so much fun. We celebrated Halloween in Toronto. Lots of fun, and very creative pumpkins. The day after Halloween all the folks in the neighborhood took their decorated pumpkins, lit them, and lined them on the path way in the Park across from our house. There were about 50 pumpkins, and they were photographed by one of the TV stations. Every pumpkin has its 15 minutes of fame. XX Virginia

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