Buresh Blog: Wild weather ride since April.... NOAA winter forecast

by: Michael Buresh Updated:

Oct. 25, 2017 - Finally a taste of fall for Jacksonville/NE Fl./SE Ga. with the coolest temps. since the first 10 days of April.  The months since April have been memorable: suddenly going from severe drought to soaked by mid to late May effectively extinguishing what had been a very active wildfire season... the most severe U.S. hurricane season since 2005... a wet season that dumped nearly a year's worth of rain on the area... & just short of 90 90-degree days vs. the avg. of 82.

So now we can start thinking about the winter ahead. NOAA has issued their seasonal outlook.  With a somewhat weak La Nina (cooling of the equatorial Pacific), the forecast locally is for a warm & dry winter - not good for the '18 wildfire season.  However, Jacksonville has experienced some pretty wild temp. swings during weak La Nina winters, so it will still be possible for at least a couple or few big temp. dips that would include a decent - & needed - freeze for the NE Fl./SE Ga.  Officially - at JIA - Jacksonville averages 18 freezes a season.

From NEEF (Nat. Environmental Education Foundation).... By Sarah Blount:

This Halloween, don’t send your pumpkins to the graveyard! In the United States, almost one third by weight of the available food supply went uneaten in 2010—that comes to 133 billion pounds of wasted food and $161.6 billion down the drain. One way to help reduce the amount of food sent to an early grave? Give your Halloween pumpkin a second life!

Over 1.6 billion pounds of pumpkins were produced last year in the United States, more than doubling the production of 2015, when heavy rains damaged the havest's chances and led to what some described as "the great pumpkin shortage of 2015(link is external)." Most of last year's bumper crop was grown in only a handful of states—farmers in Illinois, Texas, and California grew over half of the total 1.6 billion pounds of pumpkin produced in 2016. That’s a lot of squash!

Seasonal decorative pumpkins and gourds around the holidays are a popular commodity, but if you’re letting these squash collapse on your porch step, you’re allowing food to be wasted. Pumpkin is a rich source of vitamin A and potassium, and has long held an important place in many global cuisines. If the typical 10-25 pound jack-o-lantern pumpkin doesn’t exactly make your stomach rumble, consider another pumpkin varietal. The term “pumpkin” actually refers to members of four different species: Cucurbita moschata, Cucurbita mixta, Cucurbita pep, and Cucurbita maxima, giving you a wide range of options to choose from. The large orange globes normally used for jack-o-lanterns are typically bred for qualities other than taste, but by expanding your search to include smaller heirloom varieties (which are now carried in many grocery stores), you can find pumpkins that pull double-duty for both their unique aesthetic appeal and their flavorful flesh. 

For inspiration on what to look for and how to cook it, check out this Washington Post article on the best ways to eat 10 varieties of pumpkin and winter squash(link is external), which includes varietals that are blue and others that have a warty-looking exterior—perfect for Halloween! 

Sources:

  • Aegerter, Brenna, Richard Smith, Eric Natwick, Mark Gaskell, and Ellie Rilla. 2013. “Pumpkin Production in California.” ANR 722. Richmond, CA: University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources. ISBN-13: 978-1-60107-850-6.  
  • Buzby, Jean C., Hodan F. Wells, and Jeffrey Hyman. 2014. The Estimated Amount, Value, and Calories of Postharvest Food Losses at the Retail and Consumer Levels in the United States. EIB-121. US Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service.
  • Naeve, Linda. 2015. “Pumpkins.” Agricultural Marketing Resource Center. Accessed October 25, 2016. Mational Agricultural Statistics Service. 2017. "Pumpkins--Production, Measured in CWT." 2016 State Results. US Department of Agriculture. Accessed October 23.  
  • PennState Extension. 2016. “Pumpkin Production.” Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences. Accessed October 25.
  • USDA Economic Research Service. 2016 “Pumpkins: Background & Statstics.” USDA. Accessed October 25.

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