Isquotm, Pepon, Ponpion, Isquotersquash, Pumpion. These are all delightful names for a fellow who is available most everywhere right now – a sure sign that fall is here. Whatever you want to call this pleasantly plump, nicely rounded guy, he is, of course, the pumpkin.
Pumpkins come in a pleasing variety of colors from orange-gold to white, tan, green, yellow, red, and even blue. They also range in size from tiny little guys called “minis” to the truly huge Atlantic giant varieties. In recent years one of the largest of the giant pumpkins weighed in at 1,654 lbs. Now that is a serious pumpkin.
Pumpkins were first grown in Central America and migrated north and south throughout the Americas. In 1584 the French explorer, Jacques Cartier reported finding “gros melons” growing in the St. Lawrence region of North America. Pumpkins are now grown in every continent of the world except Antarctica.
Pumpkins are not a vegetable but are a fruit and have been used as a food source for many centuries. Early colonists in America made a pumpkin pudding by cleaning out the seeds and filling the inside with milk, honey and spices. The pumpkins were then baked over the fire until the filling became thick, rich and beautifully spicy. This dish was a forerunner of our pumpkin pies.
Today the greatest percentage of the pumpkins grown are used commercially but there are always plenty available from local markets for carving, painting and decorating for the Halloween holiday. They have become such a staple of Halloween decorating that one holiday enthusiast commented “Halloween night without Jack-O-Lanterns would be like Thanksgiving without a turkey.”
Here are some other interesting tidbits about pumpkins:
• The top pumpkin production states are Ohio, Illinois, Pennsylvania, and California.
• Pumpkin flowers can be eaten as a food.
• Eighty percent of the pumpkin supply in the U.S. is available in October (they are truly a fall fruit).
• Pumpkins can be found in sizes of less than a pound to over 1,000 pounds.
• Pumpkins are used to make animal feed.
• Pumpkins were once used as a remedy for removing freckles and curing snakebite.
• A “munchkin” is a variety of pumpkin.
• Pumpkin halves were used in colonial times as a guide for haircuts giving rise to the name “pumpkin heads”.
• Native Americans flattened strips of pumpkins, dried them and used them to make mats to sit on.
The world’s largest pumpkin pie weighed 2,020 lbs. and measured more than 12 feet. It took five hours to bake and produced over 3000 slices.
Enjoy this truly remarkable “Fall Fruit” and Happy Halloween!