Halloween buyers beware: The quest for the great pumpkin this year will instead reap big disappointments and outrageous prices.
The hottest summer in years has delivered what farmers call a poor harvest with fewer, smaller pumpkins. Accordingly, prices in many regions have doubled from last year.
"Instead of getting the Rolls-Royce, you're going to get a Chevy," said Dave Bengtson, an owner of Bengtson's Punkin Patch in Lockport, Ill., where thousands of people annually trek through 40 lush acres to pick their own pumpkins. "They're not as big as they normally are."
Farmers from California to New Jersey are reporting small crops, with yields in some cases as low as one-third of normal. Most Connecticut Field pumpkins, a common variety for carving into spooky craniums, are weighing in at about 15 pounds this year rather than the usual 20, farmers say. Prices range from a rock-bottom 25 cents a pound to 39 cents a pound and higher at groceries and farmers markets.
Consumers have already noticed the difference.
"They're small," Theresa Principe of Chicago said after examining the early pumpkin selection at the local Jewel supermarket. "I like big pumpkins, so I'm not even going to bother."