October is Pumpkin Month!
Fall is symbolized by great warm colors and harvest abundance. One of the most symbolic icons of the fall season is the pumpkin. Found in greens, whites, yellows and oranges, the pumpkin is synonymous with fall decor and cuisine.
Pumpkin is native to North America (Southern U.S. and Northern Mexico) and is one of the oldest domesticated plants known. It has been grown and used since 7500-5000 B.C., according to evidence found in Mexico, and is a cultivar of Winter Squash.
Ohio is one of the top producers of pumpkins in the United States. Harvested in the fall for use in food, decorations and agriculture, there is no doubt why the pumpkin is a favorite.
Jack O’ Lantern is historically the variety used for carving at Halloween due to it’s deep orange/red color and beautifully symmetric rounded shape.
The largest pumpkin, the Giant Pumpkin, weighed in at over 1 ton.
Cooking with Pumpkin
Most of the pumpkin is edible including leaves, seeds, flesh and skin. Puree can be made of the flesh and frozen or canned for future use in pies, muffins and other dishes throughout the winter.
Seeds are favored roasted and are a good source of protein, magnesium, copper and zinc. They can be found readily in grocery stores, but you can also roast your own.
The leaves are used in many cultures as vegetables or in place of what we would use Cabbage leaves for. They can be battered and deep fried, stuffed with rice and sauerkraut, stir fried and more.
Flowers are also often battered and deep fried as a delicious treat or appetizer.
Pumpkin can be pureed and canned or froze for future use. Muffins, cakes and breads are favorites, along with traditional pumpkin pie. When buying canned pumpkin in the stores, this is usually made up of many different types of winter squashes, and not necessarily pure pumpkin.
In some cultures, the pumpkin is cleaned out as if for carving, and cut into chunks. These can be roasted in the oven with butter and brown sugar, or your favorite oil and served as a vegetable. Prepare much like you would any other winter squash.
Did you know?
Pumpkin not only offers beneficial nutrients but also helps with keeping things moving due to the high fiber content. Often served to dogs and cats experiencing digestive problems such as constipation, diarrhea, or even hairballs, in small increments, to help keep your pet regular. Specific recipes or instructions from your veterinarian should be followed to be sure of how much and how often you should feed pumpkin to your pet. Always consult your veterinarian before treating your pets. Diarrhea and constipation can be serious and life threatening.
It can be used to help egg production when fed to chickens during the winter months when production goes down. Fed raw, chickens love this treat, but it is a supplement, not a replacement for meals.
Native Americans used pumpkin to expel intestinal parasites, a practice adapted by frontier Drs. in the early part of the 19th century. This use has also been found in many other cultures.
The world seems to have fallen in love with the pumpkin. There are celebrations and festivals dedicated to the honor of the pumpkin in many parts of the world. In the U.S. it is not uncommon to see many festivals per state paying homage to this winter squash.
Circleville, Ohio has hosted it’s Pumpkin Show since 1903! Originally brought about by then Mayor George Haswell, who invited country folks to bring produce into town in an effort to bring city and country folks together. It was a one day event. In the early years that followed, high wire acts, a carousel and fire eaters, to name a few, became the entertainment for the show. Today’s Pumpkin Show offers a King and Queen, complete with court, many carnival games and rides, and a variety of foods both pumpkin and non-pumpkin related.
The record for the world’s heaviest pumpkin was established in Belgium in 2016, weighing in at 2624.6 lbs! What happens after the competition? Often, the fruit is donated and used to feed wildlife, but in some towns, pumpkin flinging is a favorite amusement. Catapults are used to see who can fling their pumpkin the farthest, or cranes are used to hoist the pumpkin high in the air, only to drop it for the pure amusement of watching it smash on the ground.
Read about the history of the Jack-O’-Lantern