20 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Pumpkins

Compiled by A.E. Ritchie

  1. According to Wikipedia, a pumpkin is a cultivar of a squash plant, most commonly of Cucurbita pepo, that is round, with smooth, slightly ribbed skin, and deep yellow to orange coloration.

2. “Pepo” derives from the Greek pepon (πέπων), meaning “large melon.”

3. But some think that orange pumpkins are so yesterday. White pumpkins, once a novelty, are finding their way into more and more kitchens, and these sweet white globes make the very best pies. Ever.

4. Nestlé, operating under the brand name Libby’s, produces 85% of the processed pumpkin in the United States, at their plant in Morton, Illinois. Nestlé is the giant Swiss corporation that is on track to own rights to all the fresh water sources in the world. Be very afraid of this.

5. This is why you must start growing your own pumpkins. Two seeds will produce enough pumpkins for all the pies you can eat in several years. Or you could just “chunk” your extras at the occupants of Nestlé corporate offices (instructions below).

6. Punkin Chunkin or Pumpkin Chunking is the sport of hurling or ‘chucking’ a pumpkin by mechanical means. In a Delaware pumpkin launching competition, pumpkins were shot almost 5,000 feet from an air cannon. The event was canceled in 2017 after a loaded cannon exploded, injured a woman, and slimed the rest of the audience with pumpkin gore.

7. Caveat emptor: Commercially canned “pumpkin” puree and pumpkin pie fillings often contain other winter squashes, such as butternut squash. Just another reason to grow one’s own pumpkins.

8. Pumpkin puree is often recommended by veterinarians as a dietary supplement for dogs and cats that are experiencing certain digestive ailments such as constipation, diarrhea, or hairballs. The high fiber content aids proper digestion. Last year’s pumpkin purée becomes this year’s dog food!

9. Raw pumpkin can be fed to poultry, as a supplement to regular feed, during the winter to help maintain egg production, which usually drops off during the cold months. Or, just show your chickens the stew pot and call them “slackers.” Either method works fine.

10. Every year at Halloween, poor little Linus awaits the rising of the Great Pumpkin, to no avail. He would have a lot better luck in the Bufflehead Pond Farm pumpkin patch, but would likely be captured and consumed by the rampaging vines.

11. By now you should be saying, “Oh My Gourd.” If this hasn’t happened to you yet, please keep reading.

12. The largest pumpkin pie ever made was over five feet in diameter and weighed over 350 pounds. It used 80 pounds of cooked pumpkin, 36 pounds of sugar, 12 dozen eggs and took six hours to bake.

13. In early colonial times, pumpkins were used as an ingredient for the crust of pies, not the filling.

14. Pumpkins were once recommended for removing freckles and curing snake bites. It is not known whether the pumpkin flesh was to be smeared topically or eaten. Either way, it probably didn’t work.

15. Archaeologists discovered the oldest domesticated pumpkin seeds in the Oaxaca Highlands of Mexico. Pumpkins are believed to have originated in Central America over 7,500 years ago.

16. According to Guinness World Records, Beni Meier of Germany presented the heaviest pumpkin to date on October 12, 2014. The massive pumpkin weighed in at 2,323.7 lbs. Shockingly, this was the third record-breaking pumpkin grown by Meier during that season. Try finding a food processor large enough to purée one of those!

17. In the early 1800’s, decorative pumpkins called jack-o’-lanterns were carved to celebrate the autumn harvest season. In 1819, Washington Irving featured a mysterious jack-o’-lantern in his short story The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, which may have led to the carved pumpkin’s popular association with the Halloween holiday. (I call my version a “jack-owl-lantern.”)

Jack Owl-Lantern, painted by Adelia Ritchie

18. The Jack-o’-lantern tradition dates back centuries, when people in Ireland decorated turnips and potatoes with scary faces to frighten away a character named “Stingy Jack,” who, according to an old myth, roamed the Earth after his death.

19. Though the original Cinderella story dates back to about the 1st century B.C., the detail about the pumpkin turning into a carriage reportedly wasn’t added until 1697, in a French operatic version by Charles Perrault called “Cendrillon.” (See #16 above for the probable source of said pumpkin.)

20. One cup of mashed pumpkin contains a whopping 245% of your recommended daily intake of Vitamin A, plus 19% of your Vitamin C and 8 percent of your iron. That’s a veritable superfood (but not in latte form — pumpkin spice lattes typically don’t include actual pumpkins, only the spice mix. Sorry.)

And now, A Pumpkin Poem, author unknown

One day I found two pumpkin seeds.
I planted one and pulled the weeds.
It sprouted roots and a big, long vine.
A pumpkin grew; I called it mine.
The pumpkin was quite round and fat.
(I really am quite proud of that.)
But there is something I’ll admit
That has me worried just a bit.
I ate the other seed, you see.
Now will it grow inside of me?
(I’m so relieved since I have found
That pumpkins only grow in ground!)

A long time denizen of the Pacific Northwest, scientist, educator, artist, farmer, chicken wrangler, editor & writer at SalishMagazine.org.

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