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Pumpkins Get Weird as Growers Breeding Uglier Crop for Halloween

  • Buyers shun traditional orange for blue, pink, veins and warts
  • Unusual gourds fetch premium as seed companies add varieties
A pumpkin is hoisted off a truck to be weighed at the 42nd annual Safeway World Championship Pumpkin Weigh-Off Contest in the World Pumpkin Capital of Half Moon Bay, California on October 12, 2015.

A pumpkin is hoisted off a truck to be weighed at the 42nd annual Safeway World Championship Pumpkin Weigh-Off Contest in the World Pumpkin Capital of Half Moon Bay, California on October 12, 2015.

Photographer: Josh Edelson/AFP via Getty Images
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Since 1999, the Ackerman family of Illinois has been selling the round orange pumpkins that most Americans carve into decorative jack-o’-lanterns every Halloween. But in recent years, the gourds have been getting a lot weirder.

That’s by design. While plenty of customers still buy the traditional-looking pumpkins at this time of year, demand has surged for ones with different colors, shapes and deformities -- like all pink or white with red veins or covered in bulbous warts. The Ackermans now sell 160 different varieties, according to John Ackerman, who planted a few blue pumpkins on a whim 16 years ago hoping to expand the income from the livestock, corn and soybean operations that have been in his family since 1909.