Pumpkins 101 – All-American fruit that’s very much part of fall season

Written by Contributor. Posted in Featured

Published on October 12, 2016 with No Comments

by Steve Euvino

When carved, they become a decorative and scary part of the Halloween season. When baked for a pie, they become part of the Thanksgiving Day feast. Thanks to the Smashing Pumpkins, they are part of the rock generation.

Even Cinderella’s magical coach was in the shape of a pumpkin – nutritious, orange, and they can weigh more than a ton.

Pumpkins are as American as football and turkeys. Believed to have originated in Central America, seeds of pumpkin plants found in Mexico date back to 7000-5500 B.C.

No one knows if the pilgrims and Native Americans tossed around a pigskin at that first Thanksgiving around 1620, but the Indians were cultivating pumpkins long before the arrival of European settlers. It did not take European-Americans long to develop a liking for the plant and they sent seeds to back Europe, where pumpkins became popular.

We can thank the Irish for bringing the tradition of Jack O’Lanterns to the New World, but the original carvings were not a pumpkin; pumpkins did not exist in Ireland. Ancient Celtic tribes carved turnips and rutabagas on All Hallows Eve (Oct. 31), placing an ember in them to ward off evil spirits.

Today pumpkins are grown nearly all over the world. Morton, Ill., is the self-proclaimed “pumpkin capital of the world,” as the Libby industry and plant are located there.

Technically, the pumpkin is a fruit. It is really a squash – a member of the same family that includes squash and cucumbers. Highly versatile, pumpkins have found a home in stews, soups, and desserts. When early settlers caught on to what the Indians knew, they also dried the shells and cut strips to weave into mats. Those first pilgrim pumpkin pies consisted of filling a hollowed shell with milk, honey, and spices and then baking the mixture.

The folks at pumpkinnook.com have compiled a vast amount of facts and trivia about this all-American fruit. Here is some of their data.

Parents, don’t tell your kids this, but pumpkins are good for them. They’re rich in vitamin A and potassium. Once recommended as a cure for freckles, pumpkins have been used as a cure for snakebites. According to The Old Farmer’s Almanac, a slice of pumpkin pie before bedtime may help you to sleep.

Gluten-free, pumpkins are 90-percent water, as with many fruits and vegetables.

So why are pumpkins orange? The secret is the pigment carotenoid, which gives the pumpkin that familiar tint. Initially green from chlorophyll, the pumpkin changes color to the orange-tinted carotenoid pigment.

However, not all pumpkins are orange. Some are white, red, tan, and even blue.

Interested in records? Beni Meier of Germany broke the world record in 2014 when he produced a pumpkin weighing 2,323.7 pounds. The largest pumpkin pie weighed 3,699 pounds and was 20 feet in diameter. The people of New Bremen, Ohio, prepared that pie in 2010, breaking their previous mark of 2,020 pounds.

Thinking about growing pumpkins? The Old Farmer’s Almanac reports that pumpkins are easy to maintain, if you have the space. They do require a lot of food and have a lengthy growing season (generally 75-100 frost-free days). The almanac recommends starting the planting by late May in this country’s northern regions.

Also, the almanac states, pumpkins are “big, greedy feeders,” preferring very rich soil that is well-drained and not too soggy.

With the varied types of pumpkins, are some better suited for certain purposes? If you’re looking to carve or decorate your pumpkin, the almanac suggests Autumn Gold.

How about growing a really big pumpkin? The almanac’s choice is Dill’s Atlantic Giant, which can reach 200 pounds.

And how about those pies people love? According to the almanac, the Sugar Treat semi-bush hybrid is ideal for cooking and baking. Other pumpkins that can be used for cooking include Hijinks, Baby Bear, Cinderella’s Carriage, and Peanut Pumpkin.

In the market for colorful pumpkins? The almanac says to try Jarrahdale for its blue-green skin. Other suggestions include Pepitas Pumpkin in orange and green or Super Moon, a large, white pumpkin.


Pumpkins are as American as football and turkeys. Believed to have originated in Central America, seeds of pumpkin plants found in Mexico date back to 7000-5500 B.C.


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