“There are three things I’ve learned never to discuss with people: religion, politics, and the Great Pumpkin.”—Linus van Pelt, Peanuts comic strip character

The Rooney Bin agrees that it’s risky to write about religion and politics, but this is pumpkin season, and I plan to tune in to “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” on ABC at 8 p.m., Thursday. The annual TV special never gets old, and words of wisdom from thumb-sucking, security-blanket-clutching Linus van Pelt always seem to apply to current day topics. He’s quick to offer sage advice such as, “don’t jump into a pile of leaves with a wet sucker.”

Linus and his awe of the Great Pumpkin made the pumpkin patch famous. CBS aired the first Halloween special based on the Charles M. Schulz comic strip Oct 27, 1966, and ran it annually until 2001, when ABC took over. It was the third animated Peanuts special to be produced by Bill Melendez. The story begins with the Peanuts gang preparing for a Halloween trip to the local pumpkin patch. Linus gets upset when his big sister Lucy chooses the biggest pumpkin in the patch, and he finds out she plans to carve it into a Jack-o-lantern.

He handles his anxiety and demonstrates childish behavior blended with wisdom by writing to the Great Pumpkin: “Everyone tells me you are a fake, but I believe in you. P.S.: if you really are a fake, don’t tell me. I don’t want to know.”

Eighty percent of all U.S. pumpkins are harvested in October, the peak pumpkin growing season, which has gotten to be quite a competitive sport. (Don’t tell my spouse, the Binmeister. He once grew giant zucchini, and the neighbors pretended not to be home when he went door-to-door with gifts of supersized squash.) The average weight of a pumpkin patch pumpkin is 10 to 20 pounds. This year Steve Geddes of New Hampshire won $6,000 at the Deerfield Fair for growing the largest pumpkin in the U.S. It weighed 2,528 pounds. As magnificent as his “gourdeous” squash is, it didn’t beat the world record set in 2016 by Belgium grower Mathia Willemijn, who purportedly drove his 2,624.6 pound prize to the Giant Pumpkin European Championship in Ludwigsburg, Germany. One wonders where they found a scale large enough to weigh such a huge pumpkin. Perhaps its weight was guess-timated using a formula that forms a ratio between the circumference and the diameter, resulting in “pumpkin pi.” Indeed, a one-ton plus pumpkin makes a lot of pies.

Pumpkins belong to the cucurbita family, which includes squash and cucumbers. They   make great pies. The largest pumpkin pie ever made was more than five feet in diameter and exceeded 350 pounds. In addition to 80 pounds of cooked pumpkin, it included 36 pounds of sugar, 144 eggs and took six hours to bake. But where did the baker find an oven big enough?

Here are some tips for selecting a prime pumpkin at your neighborhood patch. Pick one that feels heavy for its size; it will have more flesh. Look for one that’s completely orange; green pumpkins might not ripen further. A ripe pumpkin has a hard shell that doesn’t dent easily, so check the entire pumpkin for soft spots, cracks and splits.  And look for a sincere pumpkin patch. That’s where, if you have faith, you could encounter the Halloween equivalent of Santa. As Linus wrote in a letter to the Great Pumpkin: “You must get discouraged because more people believe in Santa Claus than you. Well, let’s face it; Santa Claus has had more publicity, but being #2, perhaps you try harder.”