The tradition of turning turnips into carved lanterns started in Celtic Europe, according to the writings of Bettina Arnold, a professor at the University of Wisconsin. Americans, she says, were the ones who used their larger native pumpkins to carve into “jack-o-lanterns,” a tradition still celebrated by children today.
You can always tell Halloween is approaching by the rows of pumpkins, often lined up outside your local grocery store.
The price you’ll pay for a pumpkin can vary by size or weight, depending on how the store chooses to price them. Here are some price samplings around Sherman Oaks:
At Trader Joe’s, supervisor John Savage said pumpkins are priced by type, not by weight. They stock three to four varieties a year, Savage said. The traditional orange pumpkin goes for $2.99. The so-called “fairy tale” pumpkins, which come in unusual shapes and colors from beige to gray, cost $5.99. These pumpkins are most often used for decoration, he said. Trader Joe’s also sells those cute mini-pumpkins for 99 cents each.
For carving, Savage advised looking for a pumpkin that’s very round with an even, round face—not a flat face, which might squish, he said.
Trader Joe’s, 14119 Riverside Dr.; 818-789-2771. Open daily, 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Over at Gelson’s Markets, manager Mike Scott said pumpkins are sold by weight at 49 cents a pound. The exception is the mini-pumpkin, which costs 99 cents.
Scott advised considering the type of face you will be carving when choosing the shape of your pumpkin: tall, round or short and pudgy.
He cautioned that Halloween Day is the store's biggest pumpkin-selling day of the year, when sales triple from their pre-Halloween pace. So to get the best selection, don't wait.
Gelson’s Markets, 4520 Van Nuys Blvd.; 818-377-4140. Open daily, 7 a.m. to 11 p.m.
A traditional, orange pumpkin at Pavilions on Ventura Boulevard costs $5, said store manager Jose Garcia. He said all of their $5 pumpkins are medium-sized—“about the size of a basketball.” They sell the mini-pumpkins for 79 cents. That’s the cheapest we found in the mini-pumpkin category.
Pavilions, 14845 Ventura Blvd.; 818-986-7213. Open daily, 6 a.m. to midnight.
The Ralphs on Burbank Boulevard is a good place to go if you are looking for the Great Pumpkin. Here, pumpkins are sold by size. Ralphs spokeswoman Kendra Doyel told Sherman Oaks Patch by email that their traditional carving-size pumpkins cost $5.99 each. But Ralphs also sells a “Big Mac” pumpkin that she called “gigantic.” Those are $29.99. You can also get the mini-pumpkins for 99 cents.
Ralphs also sells “fairy tale” pumpkins for $9.99.
Doyel stated that pumpkin carvers should look for a “bright orange color, firm to touch, with a good stem and a nice symmetrical round shape.”
Ralphs, 14440 Burbank Blvd.; 818-989-5640. Open daily, 24 hours.
You might also check out the seasonal pumpkin patches around town. These lots tend to turn pumpkin-buying into more of an event, which might include pony rides and petting zoos with a pumpkin included in the price.
As usual, Sherman Oaks Patch does not endorse any particular business. We just aim to give you a good idea of the rates around town. Happy hunting.