Pumpkins are a winter squash. While some areas of the world refer to any winter squash as a pumpkin (Cucurbita pepo), we think of the pumpkin as only the round, orange variety of winter squash.
"Pumpkin" originates from the Greek word for "large melon" or pepon (πέπων). From there, the word evolved to French pompon and to British pumpion; and then our Colonists referred to the orange squash in America as the "pumpkin." Native Americans called them isqoutm squash. The traditional American pumpkin is the Connecticut Field variety.
While Native Americans roasted long strips of pumpkin in an open fire, colonists first used pumpkins as an ingredient in the crust of pies, not the filling. Later and as a precursor to pumpkin pie, they removed the tops and seeds from the fruit (yes, pumpkins are a fruit) and filled them with milk, honey, and spices, and then baked them in hot ashes.
The playful, fun-loving Irish brought the tradition of pumpkin carving to America. To celebrate an ancient holiday, they started with turnips; but in the new country, they changed to pumpkins as they were plentiful and more conducive to ornate carving.
Though pumpkins originated in Central America, they can be grown all over the world except on the continent of Antarctica. The biggest producers today are the U.S., Canada, Mexico, China, and India. Eighty percent of the pumpkin supply in America is available in October, and over 90% of our processed pumpkins are grown in Illinois. Pumpkins have a storage period of one to six months.
With their rich orange flesh, winter squash are a great source of carotenes as well as vitamins C and B1, folic acid, pantothenic acid, potassium, and dietary fiber. They also contain B6 and niacin.
Winter squash are one of the foods that fight cancer and heart disease. They have been shown to protect particularly against mouth, pharynx, larynx, and lung cancer.
More studies are needed but there is evidence to show that carotenes, especially those found in pumpkins, may offer protection against developing Type 2 diabetes. Pumpkin seed oil has also been shown to be helpful in reducing symptoms of benign prostatic hyperplasia.
October 26 is National Pumpkin Day Happy Carving!
Pumpkin Connecticut Field "The heirloom pumpkin of the New England settlers and Indians, several hundred years old. Golden fruit weigh about 20 lbs each. This is a truly old variety; can be used for pies; the traditional American pumpkin."
Pumpkin capital of the world, click here.
Martha Stewart's slide show of great pumpkins, click here.
Famous pumpkin quote by Henry David Thoreau: “I would rather sit on a pumpkin, and have it all to myself, than be crowded on a velvet cushion.”