Last week Halloween made us think about pumpkins. Some we eat and some we decorate. But do you know why?
The Irish brought the tradition of pumpkin carving to America. The Irish originally started carving turnips for their ancient holiday. Irish immigrants to the U.S. found pumpkins were in abundance — and much easier to carve.
Pumpkins are actually a squash that dates back to 7000 and 5500 BC. They were thought to have originated in North America. The name means “large melon” in Greek. The French adapted this word to pompon. The British changed it to pumpion and later American colonists changed the name to pumpkin.
Pumpkins are grown all over the world except Antarctica. The United States, Canada, Mexico, India and China are the biggest international producers. According to the Illinois Department of Agriculture 95 percent of the U.S. crop intended for processing is grown in Illinois.
Morton, Ill. is the self-proclaimed pumpkin capital of the world due to Libby Corporation’s pumpkin industry. Nestle’s pumpkin packing plant processes 90 percent of the canned pumpkin eaten in the U.S.
Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania and California add to the 1.5 billion pounds produced every year.
Pumpkins produce male and female flowers. The honeybee plays a significant role in fertilizing most commercial plantings. One hive is used per acre. If the bees are not available the grower often pollinates by hand.
Did you know pumpkins contain potassium and vitamin A? This squash is 90 percent water. The flowers, the fleshy shell, leaves and seed are edible. The ripe pumpkin can be boiled, steamed, or roasted. Pumpkins that are a little green may be eaten the same way as zucchini.
When you buy pumpkin in a can, check the label. Commercially canned “pumpkin” puree and fillings are sometimes butternut squash and not pumpkin. If you want the true pumpkin taste, buy a pie pumpkin and slice it in half. Cover with plastic wrap and cook in the microwave for 15 to 30 minutes until the flesh is soft. It can be used for pies, cookies, puddings, or eaten with a little butter. Baking is another option. Throw the cooked pumpkin in a blender with your pie ingredients for a fast, smooth filling for your pumpkin pie.
The high fiber contained in pumpkin is sometime recommended by veterinarians for cats and dogs with digestive ailments. Raw pumpkin is added to regular food for poultry to aid in egg production.
The current record for the biggest pumpkin is held by Ron Wallace with an Atlantic Giant pumpkin weighing in at 2,009 pounds. This record was set in 2012. Is this the year for a new record?
Pumpkins are in season until Thanksgiving so take advantage of the fresh taste.