Early Saturday morning, it dawned on me. There was less than a week remaining until Halloween, and I had yet to take the children to get pumpkins. If we were going to carve Jack-O-Lanterns, we’d need to find our perfect, beautiful pumpkins today. No problem, I thought to myself. I remembered seeing a rather large display of Halloween pumpkins in the grocery store earlier in the week. As soon as the children returned from their morning of indoor rock climbing, we headed to the store. They were excited, and already discussing their carving ideas as we grabbed a cart and walked in.
Immediately, things looked less than promising. Advent wreathes now stood in the exact spot that less than a week earlier held pumpkins. Beautiful, round, orange, ready to carve pumpkins. Surely, Halloween wasn’t over yet. A quick look through the aisle confirmed our fears. There were simply no pumpkins to be found. The waves of guilt collected with the tears rolling down my daughter’s cheek. Panic began to set in. What do we do? The only pumpkin patch is almost an hour’s drive from us, and I’m not sure if we’ll be able to plan a trip there before Halloween. I begin to run down the lists of possibilities in my head. Paper Mache? No, too messy – and too many unsuccessful prior attempts. Decorate a glass jar? No, we just took back the recyclables. Hmm. Perhaps we’ll just cut out paper and decorate the window. Yes, that will have to work. Not the most exciting idea, but it’ll do in a pinch.
We finished what little shopping we needed to do and headed toward the checkout. Before we left, we decided to take one last look around the vegetable aisle. When what to my wondering eyes should appear…. No, it wasn’t the great pumpkin, nothing quite that miraculous. Instead, we found an assortment of Kürbis. Now, in German, the word Kürbis means both squash and pumpkin, which got me thinking. They translate the terms here interchangeably, could I do the same? There are no future Jack-O-Laterns in the mix, but perhaps we can find an alternative to the traditional big orange pumpkin? I show the kids the smaller pie pumpkins and ask if they might not want to just draw on them this year, and they are excited about the change in plans. However, instead of the orange pie pumpkins, this year the kids chose a large butternut squash and a variegated carnival squash to decorate. I figure if they carved turnips in days gone by, this isn’t too far off the mark.
Now, while the children are contentedly decorating their Halloween squash, I thought it would be a nice time to revisit some of the more successful pumpkin hunts we’ve had over the years.
The year my son was born, we were living in Kansas. Although I was initially a bit reluctant to head to the land of Dorothy, I found the area surrounding Fort Leavenworth lovely. Perhaps most surprising to me was the fact that it was not flat prairie land. We were in fact surrounded by hills and forests, which turned beautifully festive in the autumn. That fall was particularly colorful, and we found a gorgeous pumpkin patch on a very large farm. We successfully brought home a pumpkin which outsized my then my two month old son. If you find yourself near Ft Leavenworth this Halloween, try the pumpkin patch at Lamborn Farms.
We spent the following two Halloweens in Key West, Florida. Amazingly, even in the Southernmost City, we were able to find a pumpkin patch. Even more surprisingly, it was full of activities and wonderfully decorated with pumpkins, bales of straw, and of course, palm trees. Again, we found and carved our beautiful pumpkins. If you are spending Halloween in the Keys, the pumpkin patches can be found here. Oh, and just a little tip for anyone finding themselves in a warm climate around Halloween, remember not to carve the pumpkin ahead of time.
The following year was our first year in Germany, and I found some pumpkins at a roadside stand somewhere between our home and Tübingen. It was an honor stand, and although it took me a while to translate the specifics, we soon had two lovely large pumpkins. Interestingly, this was the first year that my pumpkins were both vandalized and stolen. It was quite upsetting to the children, to wake up to missing pumpkins. So I told them that the Halloween fairy really liked their pumpkins and took them to a special place reserved for the very best pumpkins. They were fairly happy with that.
We decided to give the famous Ludwigsburg Kürbisausstellung a try the year after that. This festival, celebrating everything pumpkin related, is held at the Blühenden Barock Ludwigsburg, just outside of Stuttgart. It is a lovely location, and a very nice festival. Each year, the gardens around the palace are transformed to a magical land of squash and pumpkins, centered on a unique theme. We entered the palace gardens to find the place overrun with pumpkin dinosaurs. We followed the footprints, nests and other trail markers until we came to the Kurbisaurus Rex and his friends. After we’d had our fill of pumpkin themed food and drinks, we headed into the Fairytale Park located within the palace grounds. We were able to find some lovely pumpkins for carving here. Ludwigsburg is another place I would highly recommend if you are in the area. The theme to this year’s fest is Kürbis Royal and it runs until November 2. You can find more information here.
The following year, we picked up our pumpkins at an enormous vegetable stand. They had an insane assortment of squashes and pumpkins of all varieties. We had lots of fun choosing the largest pumpkin we could find. The sales associates appeared slightly bewildered, both by the giant pumpkin we were about to purchase, and by what we told them we were planning on doing with it. In fact, our pumpkin was so big, that it wouldn’t register on the scale at the counter. This presented a problem as the produce was sold by weight. After they found a functioning larger scale, they weighed our pumpkin and sent us on our way. I am convinced that this remains their largest single vegetable sale to date. They are probably still laughing about those crazy Americans and their giant pumpkin. It was the biggest pumpkin we’d purchased.
Last year was our first year in Bavaria. My husband was either working or traveling, so the children and I set off to find Jerry’s Pumpkin Patch, which claims to have “the best pumpkins this side of the Ozarks”. It is a popular destination point for Americans living in Bavaria looking for a little reminder of home. It was a bit of an effort to find the place, but well worth it. The patch itself was huge. We took a hay ride through the fields, then we set off with a wheelbarrow in search of our perfect pumpkins. Unfortunately, the weather last year was not particularly favorable for pumpkin growing. We found some good-sized pumpkins, but they were green. The kids didn’t seemed particularly phased by the prospect of a green Jack-o-Lantern, and the owner told us there was a possibility that they might still turn orange. One did, one didn’t, but we enjoyed the day and the pumpkins. You can find directions and operating times here.
Which brings us to this year’s epic mom fail. Less than a week to go until the big day, and we are pumpkinless, although we now have some uniquely decorated squash. I’m pretty sure that this year will be revisited often. It will be one of those holidays that’s memorable because it’s, well, a bit out of the ordinary. For an American family that is. But for an American family in Germany, it’s about right. A little of this, a little of that, and a lot of making it up in between. Maybe we’ll get some time to head up to the pumpkin patch before Friday. If not, well, there’s always next year.