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Last Updated: Monday, 8 October 2007, 11:09 GMT 12:09 UK
Trouble in the pumpkin patch
pumpkin lantern
A poor crop means Halloween lanterns could be in short supply
Halloween lanterns will have a strange green tinge this year as bad summer weather has hit pumpkin growth.

Britain's leading pumpkin farmer says wet weather in June and July means that his crop is down by 30% and his pumpkins lack their traditional colour.

"It's a disaster. Everybody knows that pumpkins are orange," said David Bowman, whose Lincolnshire farm normally produces two million a year.

Mr Bowman said prices will rise and shops could sell out early.

Most pumpkins sold in the UK are used for lantern carving, as part of Halloween celebrations leading up 31 October.

Worst crop ever

With 10,000 people expected for the Spalding Pumpkin Festival next weekend, Mr Bowman said he is frantically trying to ripen his pumpkins in storage sheds so that they look the part for the festival.

"I've run the temperature up to 25C and the place is like a furnace," he said of his sheds. "I can only hope it's going to work in time."

In 35 years of pumpkin farming, Mr Bowman said that this is the worst crop he's ever seen.

He said the shortage is more acute this year, because of the problems foreign pumpkin growers have experienced.

"Europe's had it too hot, America's had no rain in one part and too much rain in another part so theirs aren't ready either," he said.

Window warming

While consumers will probably only see a small price rise, pushing the average pumpkin cost up to 2, the bigger worry is that the supply will run out early.

Mr Bowman's advice to lantern enthusiasts is to grab a green pumpkin early and put it in the window to ripen.

"Even if it's a bit green, put it in the window, bring it in the warm and give it a chance," he said, adding that outdoor October sunshine is not warm enough to ripen the vegetable.

Mr Bowman, whose farm is Europe's largest, said his crop of smaller sweet pumpkins used in recipes fared better than the larger ones used for carving lanterns as they need less time to ripen.

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