This is the VOA Special English Agriculture Report.
Conditions for growing pumpkins were poor in some areas of the United States this year. (2006) The East and parts of the Midwest suffered heavy rains and extreme heat. So the supply for sale has decreased, making prices higher than last year.
Still, many people are buying the large, round fruit. Pumpkins are an important part of the American celebration of Halloween on October thirty-first. Many families visit farms or farmers markets so their children can pick out the pumpkins they want. They remove the insides of the pumpkin and cut pieces from the outside to make a face. Sometimes they place and light candles inside their carved pumpkin faces. People place the pumpkins outside their homes or in their windows.
Americans also use pumpkins for cooking, especially during the American holiday of Thanksgiving in late November. Tradition says early settlers ate pumpkin pie, or something similar to it. Pumpkins belong to the gourd family. They are related to melons, cucumbers and squashes. Some people call pumpkins vegetables. But others, including scientists, call them fruit. Pumpkins have hard skins and seeds in the center. And they contain more Vitamin A than almost any other fruit.
People have grown pumpkins in North and Central America for thousands of years. Pumpkins grow on vines or bushes. Most weigh only a few kilograms. But some pumpkins grow to be huge.
A farmer from the state of Rhode Island recently won a competition with a pumpkin that weighed six hundred eighty-one kilograms. It could be the largest in the world. Such super pumpkins are often shown at agricultural fairs.
Pumpkins get their start when bees fertilize their flowers. The insects carry reproductive material called pollen from the male to the female flowers. No pumpkins will grow if the female flower is not pollinated at the right time.
People use pumpkin in pies, breads, cakes and other baked goods. Many Americans also like to eat baked pumpkin seeds. Americans can also buy processed pumpkin in cans.
However, experts say it is not a good idea to process fresh pumpkin at home to use in the future because dangerous bacteria can develop. But whole pumpkins can store well for weeks in a cool, dark place.
And that’s the VOA Special English Agriculture Report, written by Jerilyn Watson. To read the next of this program and download audio, go to voaspecialenglish.com. I’m Steve Ember.