Cold snap sparks frantic race to ripen Hallowe’en pumpkin crop

Milo Williams, two, with a stack of Craigie Farm pumpkins
Milo Williams, two, with a stack of Craigie Farm pumpkins
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They are a staple of Hallowe’en celebrations and for many, a tasty Autumnal food associated with the United States.

But this year, a farm in South Queensferry has run into problems with its crop of pumpkins.

Five-hundred of the fleshy fruits – often carved into spooky lanterns at Hallowe’en – were planted at the family-run Craigies farm back in May.

But a particularly cold month led to a flop of the crops – with only 100 making it through to October.

Now the farm is facing a race against time to bring as many of the pumpkins indoors and ripen them in time for October 31.

Owner and farmer of Craigies – believed to be the only farm growing pumpkins in the Lothians this year – John Sinclair, 42, said: “Unfortunately, this year our pumpkins haven’t ripened quickly enough.

“It’s quite an easy crop to grow, but the biggest problem in Scotland is we do not get warm enough summers and enough sunlight in autumn.

“Most of the damage was done back in May because it was a very cold month. We were one or two weeks behind and we never really caught up because we didn’t get a really hot spell in the summer.

“The problem with pumpkins is after Hallowe’en, they are similar to Brussels sprouts – if they are not ready for Christmas, nobody wants them.”

The poor pumpkin yield has hit farmers all over Britain.

Bad weather throughout the summer has brought the average size of pumpkins – five to seven kilos – down to three or four kilos.

The unripened fruits are green and only turn orange in the last few weeks.

Most British pumpkins are grown in the south of England.

John, who been with the farm all his life, started producing pumpkins ten years ago after growing demand from farm shop customers.

“We are quite a small farm and we are really far north to be growing pumpkins on a large commercial basis – we started off growing around 50 pumpkins 10 years ago.

“In past years, we’ve had a lot of children coming with their mums to pick their own.

“There has definitely been a growing demand for them. We had a great crop last year, but this year, they haven’t been so plentiful.”

Left over pumpkins will be used to make jams and chutneys to sell in the farm shop.

This year’s disappointment has done nothing to deter John from growing the big orange fruits – and he says there have been more successful years than non-successful.

“We hope the following year will be better, but that’s the joys of doing this in Scotland.

“It’s a sideline for us, but I’m hoping it will be something that will develop and that pumpkins will become more popular.

“We have got plans for next year to do more surrounding Hallowe’en and have a fancy dress competition on one day. You’ve just got to work with the elements, rather than against them.”