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Where did all the canned pumpkin go?

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I've now been to four major grocery stores.... and there is not a can of canned pumpkin to be found. Not even store brand. Not even the kind premixed for pie. And all the store people will tell me is they don't expect any in any time soon. I'm in Oklahoma... is the whole country afflicted with pumpkin extinction?

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  1. Yep, there was a pumpkin crop failure in central Illinois where the Libbey's pumpkin cannery is located. Libbey's apparently supplies the vast majority of canned pumpkin in the U.S. (over 80%) so that's why it's missing from store shelves.

    19 Replies
    1. re: John E.

      I recall reading that it wasn't a crop failure, but very wet, muddy conditions at harvest time prevented access to them and many rotted on the vines. Plan on mince, apple, or pecan pie for Thanksgiving 2010.

      1. re: Veggo

        Unless you plant your own seeds; you still have time to plant in order to harvest by Thanksgiving...I saw a few cans of pumpkin in the stores here; I'm in NC...you should check stores like Big Lots, Dollar General, Dollar Tree, Family Dollar and the like, many times they have stuff you don't see in other stores until holiday time.

        1. re: Veggo

          Yeah, I knew why they couldn't get the pumpkins to the processor. I was pretty much referring to any crop where it doesn't get out of the field whether it's a drought, flood, snow or anything that prevents harvest as a crop failure.

          1. re: John E.

            gotcha JE. I didn't want to be a stick in the mud, but we didn't want to create an impression that pumpkins are prone to pestilence.

          2. re: Veggo

            How about using one of the hard squashes? I just one of my favorites, kabocha, for .60/lb.

            Sweet potato also makes a good puree that could be used like pumpkin.

            1. re: paulj

              If the canned stuff doesn't turn up by fall, sweet potato pie is indeed an admirable substitute for punkin.

              1. re: Veggo

                But weren't the original jack-o-lanterns carved from turnips (in Ireland and the UK)?

                Carving pumpkins aren't the best pie variety. One source says the canned pumpkin is usually C. moschata (e.g. Dickinson field), closely related to butternut squash.

                According to an U Ill extension page, the difference between a pumpkin and a squash 'is all in what you call it'. There are 4 species, and many varieties. Some called pumpkins, some squash. A pumpkin is more likely to have an orange skin, and recognizable shape (Connecticut Field). But neither have much to do with the taste.

                If you are willing to cook your own (steaming may be best) you shouldn't have problems finding pumpkin/squash puree now, or in the fall.

                1. re: paulj

                  True about the turnip, but they were probably more a rutabaga and not the white topped turnip, and so had more carving girth.

                  A pumkin pie from fresh pumkin/squash is superior to canned, anyway.

                  I've been leaning rather heavily towards sweet potato pie, instead of pumpkin, at Thanksgiving for the past few years.

                2. re: Veggo

                  There hasn't been a shortage of local pumpkins to my knowledge. There have been plenty of pumpkins for Halloween, etc. It was a problem in the Libbey's fields not a universal pumpkin crop failure.

                  1. re: John E.

                    The problem was/is that Libby's provides at least 90% of all canned pumpkin (I just made that statistic up but it's gotta be close). Those who are desperate can definitely get pumpkins in the fall at local farms, I see them rotting in the fields after Halloween.

                    1. re: coll

                      Are those Halloween pumpkins any good for pie making?

                      1. re: paulj

                        Not typically. Sweet pumpkins tend to be smaller.

                        1. re: paulj

                          Around here, they usually have both.

                        2. re: coll

                          Yes, I know that, I was the first to reply to the OP.

                        3. re: John E.

                          This strikes me as the third year in a row that we've heard about a pumpkin shortage just before the fall/holidays baking season. Then pumpkin shows up.

                          I wonder if the price of canned pumpkin edges up after each of these scares...

                          I get an annual supply of pumpkin when the stores have it in the fall/winter.

                      2. re: paulj

                        Kabocha makes a killer pie. It's naturally a bit sweet so you need to cut way back on the sugar. Another good substitute is steamed carrots. Better than pumpkin in my opinion.

                        BTW, most canned pumpkin is Hubbard squash, or so I've been informed.

                      3. re: Veggo

                        Not necessarily - I was able to get 4 cans of organic canned pumpkin puree several months ago at my local Whole Foods when I had a cat with digestive issues (they offered me the case of 12, but at a tsp. a night for dinner, the cats wouldn't have gone through that much! LOL). They had to go in the back to find it, but they *did* have it. Don't recall the price, but it wasn't as bad as I had thought it might be. I have three cans left; one will be saved for pumpkin pie. :-)

                      4. re: John E.

                        If I couldn't find canned pumpkin, I would make a sweet potato pie as a substitute.

                        1. re: John E.

                          that's exactly what Libby's customer service told me when I emailed them back in the spring. hopefully this year's harvest is better! :)

                        2. I had trouble finding this late last summer/early fall. My grocery store, which is a pretty good one (Harris Teeter), told me they only carry it around holiday time, so this might be part of your problem too. Do they think people don't like pumpkin bread/muffins, etc. at any other time of the year??? I stocked up at Thanksgiving.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: Susan627

                            There was a shortage last year because of the bad growing season in 2008. What's on the shelves this time of year was made from the 2009 crop, which also suffered from the cold and rain that characterized 2009's early summer. Those in the know bought enough last winter, when it finally reappeared on the shelves, to last through 2010.

                          2. I'm sure John E.'s explanation is correct. But could it also be true that demand for the product is increasing more than the producers expected?

                            I know I recently learned to stock a can of plain pumpkin puree at all times to use as a supplement for my dog's diet when she gets diarrhea. Works like a charm. Apparently an old Mexican folk remedy that works with babies too? I'm thinking if this use is becoming popular, it could cause scarcities in what is otherwise a slow-moving item. I have noticed it can be hard to find this product in my market.

                            11 Replies
                            1. re: BernalKC

                              Curious that pumpkin seeds and sometimes blossoms are in numerous mexican dishes and sauces but otherwise I can't think of how pumpkins are utilized in Mexico. I defer to Cristina and Dining Diva.

                              1. re: Veggo

                                Checked at our local Publix.............NO CANNED PUMPKIN!!!!!!

                                1. re: Veggo

                                  DUring the 2009 shortage I asked my local supermarket manager about it. He said that in general they were selling a lot of it year-round, because it is popular in a number of countries whose emigrants are a growing portion of the area's demographics. Isn't there pumpkin flan? Rereading BernalKC's post about doggie squirts, had to chuckle when I came to "a slow-moving item".....and an item to slow movement! ;-D

                                  1. re: Veggo

                                    I know pumpkin is not something I see on any Latin American restaurant menus. But then again, "Mexican" restaurants tend to play from a very narrow subset of the actual Mexican cuisine.

                                    I did find this web citation: "Perhaps the quintessential symbol of autumn, the pumpkin is a Mexican native and an ancient staple food.", here: http://www.mexconnect.com/articles/21...

                                    1. re: Veggo

                                      I'm sure Cristina and DD will be here soon! I can only report from here in Mazatlán. We don't have those orange ones, except at Halloween when Mega (supermarket that caters to gringos) gets those little tiny ones for decoration. (Yum, I cooked some last fall and they were good!) There are huge squashes, green, available all year. They look pretty much like big pumpkins, more gnarly, and probably taste the same. At Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, a few restaurants here make "pumpkin" pies for their American/Canadian customers. One I know uses carrots, another uses yams, another uses those big green squashes, and guess what: THEY ALL TASTE LIKE PUMPKIN!

                                      1. re: MazDee

                                        Or rather they all taste of cinnamon, ginger and cloves.

                                    2. re: BernalKC

                                      I can't say that I've given pumpkin to my daughter for that reason, but I know quite a few moms that sneak pumpkin in to things like pancakes and oatmeal to get a serving of veggie into their kids. Lucky me, my kid doesn't like meat, so I have to sneak protein in.

                                      1. re: BernalKC

                                        Other than being more golden than orange in color, canned squash works fine as a stand-in for pumpkin puree for both cooking and gastrointestinal ailment purposes. It remained available during the pumpkin shortage last year.

                                        1. re: greygarious

                                          I think it was poster coll who mentioned in another pumpkin thread that many of the commercial pumpkin packers actually pack varietes of squash and label it as pumpkin or as squash, where Libby's maintains that they always use 100% pumpkin.

                                          1. re: bushwickgirl

                                            When
                                            http://www.verybestbaking.com/product...
                                            claims to be 100% pure pumpkin, I think they mean no added water, sugar, spices, or filler, etc. The issue isn't pumpkin v squash.
                                            "LIBBY'S uses a special variety of pumpkin called "Dickinson". "
                                            and
                                            "Just check the label: no salt, no sugar, no flavorings or preservatives. It's just 100% Pure Pumpkin"

                                            1. re: paulj

                                              As I wrote, Libby's canned pumpkin is 100% pumpkin, but you can also buy Libby's canned pumpkin pie filling, with added spices and sugar, made with 100% pumpkin.

                                      2. If you go to a store with a wide organic selection you should find some. Libby, etc. focuses on a very specific grow area. Organic brands have farmers in many other locations, so they were not hit as hard.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: meatn3

                                          This is good advice. I found some Farmer's Market brand organic pumpkin at Super Target last week.

                                        2. If you're desperate, I stocked up earlier in the year when a shortage was predicted. I'd be happy to share a 15-ounce can, if you're in need. Email me at pikawicca@hotmiail.com

                                          1. I still hsve a can from maybe 3 years ago. You can use butternut squash.

                                            1. I read about the problem last year and stocked up on canned pumpkin in the fall.

                                              6 Replies
                                              1. re: javaandjazz

                                                I wish I was smart enough to have stocked up in the fall. E wanted one for Father's Day. Ended up having to resort to a Marie Callender frozen pie - no canned pumpkin to be found, and he won't eat sweet potatoes or squash.

                                                1. re: Rubee

                                                  And the pie you bought probably WAS squash. Just don't tell him is my advice.

                                                  1. re: coll

                                                    Ha - true! I've tried in the past to convince him it's the spices and he wouldn't notice it anyway ; )

                                                  2. re: Rubee

                                                    What about trying a market like Whole Foods. Also, the loca pumpkins will be out soon and it's not hard to cut up a pumpkin and roast it in the oven and then freeze it.

                                                    1. re: javaandjazz

                                                      I live where canned pumpkin isn't available, ever.

                                                      So I roast my own -- it makes a much for flavorful pie, IMO, and truly, it doesn't take much extra work. Cut the pumpkin into chunks, throw it into a roasting pan with a little water, cover with foil and roast at 375 about 1-1/2 hours or until it's tender. Scrape off of the rind and puree the pulp. That's it.

                                                      You don't want to use carving pumpkins, by the way -- they're very stringy and don't have much flavor, because they're bred to be structurally strong, not good to eat.

                                                      1. re: sunshine842

                                                        I have done this in the past too and it's not a big deal but I always have a stock of the canned stuff on hand.

                                                2. I've had some really good sweet potato pie by some incredible southern cooks here.... sadly... I am not one of them. I inevitable get the "strings".... icky. I am going to try a few more places suggested by you guys! Thanks!

                                                  1. Last year, when THAT pumpkin shortage thread appeared, I hurried to my local Meijer and sure enough, there were only a couple of cans of prepared pie filling (dented at that) and ONE 29-oz. can of store brand plain pumpkin. I bought that can, because I knew I'd need it for my black bean-pumpkin soup. So, did I make that? NOOOOOOOOOOO. And I still have that can in my pantry!

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: nofunlatte

                                                      I did a little hoarding last fall too, pretty sure I have at least 3 cans in the pantry, big and little (all Libbys though). I'll have to do an inventory, and maybe try out that vodka pie crust.

                                                    2. I wasn't sure if the Great Canned Pumpkin Shortage of 2010 is over, but I did just stop into Rural King today (a new favorite shopping place--you can usually find me in the farm wife section, admiring the canning equipment). Large end-cap full of canned pumpking (NOT prepared pie filling).

                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. re: nofunlatte

                                                        I remembered this thread when I was at a local grocery chain in Spokane, WA earlier today. They had a full stock of both Libby pumpkin and pumpkin pie filling. I was tempted to stock up on a few cans just in case, but $3.99/can seemed a bit pricey.

                                                      2. Even tho the big grocery stores in Tulsa were out, I was spending the weekend in a very small town in kansas and the small independent grocery store had buckets of the stuff. Both the regular and the mix. Needless to say I stocked up.

                                                        1. I have one can left, but will also say that I've seen it at Whole Foods for around $2/can. A little pricey, but it's organic. You can also find frozen butternut squash puree commonly here in the Midwest. A local farmer grows beautiful carotene rich kabocha, so that's what I'm planning to buy next month for keeping. Last year his kabocha and white sweet potatoes kept well. I think I still had a few in March, even. He's very particular about harvesting them at the right time and gave me specific instructions about sunning them before storage.

                                                          1. Just a note - I was in BJ's Wholesale Club this evening, and they have a HUGE pallet of 3-pks of the large Libby's pure canned pumpkin. Didn't note the price, but they had plenty of pumpkin, that's for sure!

                                                            2 Replies
                                                            1. re: LindaWhit

                                                              Today, Kroger and Trader Joe's both had canned pumpkin on display.

                                                              1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                You must have been in the same one as me, I saw it yesterday also!

                                                              2. just noticed all kinds of canned pumpkin at the local "giant" grocery store here in arlington, va.

                                                                1. I saw it in a couple of supermarkets here in Westchester, but the stock seemed much smaller than in past years when they had pyramids of canned pumpkin. Both markets had only a small shelf of them and funnily enough, they were both in an inconspicuous, out of the way location. I bought several.

                                                                  1. "Canned pumpkin shortage is over"
                                                                    http://www.usatoday.com/money/industr...

                                                                    2 Replies
                                                                    1. re: monku

                                                                      yipee!

                                                                      1. re: jujuthomas

                                                                        Yay! It was back in Food Pyramid yesterday as well.

                                                                    2. two cans at WallyWorld yesterday for $2.50 each. the bigger cans not the small ones, and not the ready made pie mixture either, just plain pumpkin

                                                                      1. I know there was a shortage last year, but this year Krogers and Meijers (Ohio) already have canned pumpkin on the store shelves.

                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                        1. re: deedone

                                                                          i've heard people are able to buy it again, i have not yet seen it in my store.

                                                                        2. Ive seen it in stores in Minnesota and apparently, people think there is going to be a shortage again and are stocking up because it seems to dissappear fast.