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Pumpkin Icebox Pie

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I think you all know I live in Illinois. Specifically, I live in Chicago, but there is a lot of Illinois to the south and even a bit to the north of Chicago.

Today I want to talk about pumpkin production in Illinois. It is October. Pumpkin time.

I pulled a bunch of statistics from an article online that lays out the production of pumpkin in Illinois. I don’t know about you, but I found this fascinating. As a child in Wisconsin I looked forward every fall to getting in the car with my mom to go pick a couple of pumpkins to carve for Halloween. I had no idea what was going on down a little further south.

An Illinois farm likely grew both your Halloween pumpkin (known in the industry as ornamental) and the prime ingredient in your Thanksgiving pie (called processing pumpkins).

When it comes to pumpkin production, Illinois smashes the competition. Prairie State farmers grow more ornamental and canning-type pumpkins than any other state. In fact, Illinois produced more than twice as many pumpkins as second-ranked to California.

More than 90 percent of the nation’s canning pumpkins grow in Illinois, says Mohammad Babadoost, a plant pathologist and professor at the University of Illinois.

Illinois earns the top rank for several reasons. Pumpkins grow well in its climate and in certain soil types. And in the 1920s, a pumpkin processing industry was established in Illinois. Decades of experience and dedicated research help Illinois maintain its edge in pumpkin production.

Two pumpkin processing facilities exist in Illinois today -- Nestle Libby’s in Morton and Seneca Foods in Princeville, both located near Peoria. I’ve never been to the countryside around Peoria. Might have to check that out.

Rows of pumpkins are harvested before being taken to the Nestle/Libby’s plant in Morton, Ill. Morton is known as the Pumpkin Capital of the World.

Farms throughout the state grew more than 278,000 tons last year. That translates to millions of pumpkins.

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