pumpkin patch

This year, the 13th day of October falls on a Friday*. Because there’s something a bit more sinister and ominous about an October version of Friday the 13th, I thought I would fill you in on where you can avoid the bad luck willies and have some good, old-fashioned, family fun this fall: the pumpkin patch!

I have a 17-month-old son who is a giant ball of energy. He has a tough time sitting still for more than 30 seconds because he’s just so curious. Needless to say (isn’t it weird how we say it anyway?), we’re always looking for great ways to get him out of our 1,250 square foot apartment and give him the chance to run around. During the fall, it’s great to visit the pumpkin patch and, luckily, we live in an area that’s accessible to plenty of them. These aren’t some Podunk, side-of-the-road farm stands, either. These patches, through a seemingly competitive battle of one-upmanship, are full-on fall festivals with rides, and animals, and food, and Halloween attractions fit for a full day of festive fun.

The last two weekends, we took our son to two fall fests, and we’re likely to hit up a couple more before the season wraps up. The first, a southwest suburban Chicago favorite, Bengston’s Pumpkin Fest, and the second, a northwest suburban Chicago favorite, Goebbert’s Farm. Each is steeped in family tradition and delivers the goods when it comes to fun for the whole crew. I could go on about the amusements, the petting zoos, and the hayrides, but this is a food site, darn it, so I’m going to highlight some of the foodstuffs. In honor of this Friday the 13th, here are 13 things you should indulge in at your local pumpkin patch.

1. Roasted Corn: You want to get this delicious treat for two reasons. First, the patch usually roasts up some of their own farm-picked corn on the cob. It doesn’t get fresher than that. And when it comes to produce, fresher is better. Second, this is likely the last hoorah for this late summer favorite. So eat up, because you won’t have access to the good stuff until next harvest.

2. Apple Cider Doughnuts: I love doughnuts, and when it comes to a pre-Halloween treat, these deliver just what I’m looking for. Get them sprinkled with sugar, glazed, or both. Typically fresh made and often still warm when served, you don’t want to miss out on these.

3. Kettle Corn: Prefer the popped version of maize? This is for you! There’s something about a sweet and salty combo that makes the mouth water and the taste buds perk up. That’s why kettle corn is so great. Subtler than caramel corn, kettle corn’s modest buttery, sugary splendor is ever-so-pleasing to the palate.

4. Pumpkins: You’re at a pumpkin patch, so, obviously they have a lot of pumpkins. Some patches even let you pick your own. Regardless, you’re going to have a bigger selection of pumpkins than the local supermarket. Great for pies or for carving, the pumpkin patch has everything you need.

5. Apple Cider: Different from the clearer apple juice, this stuff is the pure, farm-fresh nectar of apple goodness. Drink it hot. Drink it cold. Just drink it.

6. Pumpkin Seeds: Where there are pumpkins, there are seeds. This great fall snack is perfect for munching. Whether you’re watching the kids’ soccer game, tailgating, or at home watching football, pumpkin seeds will likely be a welcome addition that adds a little panache to your spread.

7. Fresh-Picked Apples: Some fall fests and pumpkin patches have apple orchards where you can pick your own apples. If fresher is better, then right-off-the-tree-fresh is best! Pick the ones that meet your specifications if your fest has that option. If not, grab a basket of farmer picked treats for your fruit dish at home.

8. Farm Style Condiments: From honey, to butters, to preserves, to BBQ sauces, many pumpkin patches sell fresh, farm-made condiments you just won’t find at the store. Use local honey to help your allergies. Use pumpkin butter on your sweet potato. Baste your next batch of ribs with their BBQ sauce. Your dishes will be fresh and unique with these ingredients.

9. Candy Apples: These aren’t your school-fundraiser-style candy apples. These are massive pieces of fruit, dipped in caramel, or chocolate, and then dipped again in sprinkles, or nuts, or M&Ms. These definitely aren’t the type of apples to keep the doctor away, but one or two this fall will make your sweet tooth sing.

10. Fresh Produce: Your farmer’s market might only be open one day a week. But your pumpkin patch’s fresh stand is open every day this fall. While there, hit up the farm stand before you go for the best in locally sourced, fresh produce.

11. Fresh Baked Pies, Breads, and Fudge: These delectable desserts, made with fresh ingredients, are perfect for your after dinner cravings, and so much more. A slice of pumpkin bread with a cup of tea? Yes, please! Some apple cinnamon bread for breakfast? Thank you, sir, may I have another?! Stock up for your holiday parties.

12. Flowers: Okay, so the next two aren’t foods, but they enhance food with great visuals. Many pumpkin patches also have garden centers, so grab yourself some mums for a great fall centerpiece. These beautiful fall flowers are a great balance to offset some of those dreary fall days. Pro tip: My wife tells me a hallowed-out pumpkin makes for a nice organic vase.

13. Gourds and Cornstalks: Again, this isn’t necessarily a food, but presentation is important, and the pumpkin patch can help. Get some gourds and cornstalks for some great options on indoor or outdoor decor.

This Friday the 13th, or any day this October, look to your local pumpkin patch for some great fall-themed fun. While you’re there, make sure not to ignore your taste buds and pick up one, some, or all of the aforementioned treats. And if you’re more of a “trick” type of person at Halloween, your patch likely has a haunted house to satisfy you too!

Check out all the best of pumpkins on Chowhound.

Related Video: Why Pumpkin Is a Fruit and Not a Vegetable

*This post was originally published on October 13, 2017.

Header image courtesy of Shutterstock.

Greg is a Chicago guy who likes to cook, dine, and help others navigate their food choices. Why? Because food is an integral part of our lives, he's the best version of himself when he's well fed, and he wants to help others more consistently make a routine activity into something special. When he's not writing, he's watching sports, searching out ways to laugh, offering unsolicited-yet-rational positions on social media, handling the domestic responsibilities of a husband and dad, and figuring out his next meal.
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