Is there a grocery store in Texas that doesn’t boast a pile of brilliant orange pumpkins this time of year? I never met a pumpkin I didn’t like, from the giants posing for their selfies against the Dallas skyline in today’s illustration, to the miniatures filling bowls in my house with the last of the summer sunshine.
But most of all, I have a yen for the bizarre, the lividly colored, the twisted, the pumpkins so weird you'd think only their mothers could love them.
And to find those, it’s hard to beat the pumpkin patches at the Dallas Farmers Market. Farmers at one booth, a little nonplussed, insisted they had “real” pumpkins. You know, the smooth-skinned symmetrical beauties perfect for carving into jack-o-lanterns. I’m not dissing those. But my heart belongs to the weird ones.
Although jack-o-lanterns mildew within days of being carved, uncarved pumpkins last for weeks. Maybe months, except that after Thanksgiving, I’m tossing them on the compost pile to make room for Christmas decorations.
Not a fan of the color orange? The bizarres come in a range of colors. I like the whites and steel-grays, which mingle nicely with flowers and candy skulls for the concurrent Day of the Dead celebrations. Others are striped, or deep, almost Christmas red, or pastel versions of the traditional orange. Some of the weird vegetables in the pumpkin patches are actually gourds. Never mind, they last as well as pumpkins and add greens and yellows to the color palette.
Booths at the downtown Dallas Farmers Market also carry hay bales, cornstalks, strings of chili peppers and other season favorites. The market at 1010 S. Pearl Expressway is open daily except Thanksgiving Day, Christmas and New Year’s Day. The revamped open pavilion for growers, now called the Shed (formerly Shed No. 1) is open 8 a.m.- 6 p.m. In spite of surrounding construction, there’s still plenty of free parking, including a sizeable lot near the Ruibal’s Plants market.
To help carry my loot, I’ll toss the little red wagon I take to plant sales in the trunk of my car. Because pumpkins, even little pumpkins, are heavy.
For more information about the Dallas Farmers Market, see www.dallasfarmersmarket.org/. Smaller local markets may carry pumpkins as well as seasonal produce. And for a list of seasonal, family-oriented pumpkin patches, where arts and crafts and hay bale mazes mingle with pumpkins, I like http://pumpkinpatchesandmore.org/TXpdallas.php/. Be sure to call or check the websites for current information and availability.