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Pumpkin Facts

Posted by admin On October - 31 - 2010ADD COMMENTS

Pumpkin Facts

Pumpkins are a fruit and not a vegetable.  They are related to squash and cucumbers, and are native to North America.  Seeds of pumpkin-like plants have been found in Mexico dating back 5,000 to 7,000 years.  Native Americans ate pumpkins and pumpkin seeds, making many different food products and other useful items out of them.  They flattened strips of pumpkins, dried them and made mats, and used pumpkin seeds for food and medicine.

When the early European settlers arrived in America, they discovered Native Americans growing and eating pumpkins, and they soon adopted the new food.  Hardy and durable, pumpkins were made into soups, stews, and the flesh was baked and eaten plain.  Someone finally filled a hollowed-out pumpkin with milk, spices and honey and baked it over the hearth.  This was the start of today’s classic – pumpkin pie.  The name “pumpkin” originated in the Greek word for a gourd: “pepon.”

The “pumpkin capital of the world” is Morton, Illinois, which is the location of the Libby company pumpkin-canning industry.  About 90 percent of pumpkins that are processed into cans or pies are grown in Illinois.  The other top pumpkin-growing states are Ohio, Pennsylvania, and California.

Like other orange foods, pumpkins contain beta carotene, which helps the body to produce Vitamin A.  Pumpkins are also high in potassium.  All parts of the pumpkin except for the pulp and stem are edible.  Native Americans even cut pumpkins into strips and dried them into edible jerky.  Even pumpkin flowers are edible.

Most pumpkins are produced and harvested in October, although they can be grown year-round.  The value of the US pumpkin crop was $148 million in 2008, with a total of 1.1 billion pounds of pumpkins grown and harvested.

The largest pumpkin pie to date was baked on October 25, 2010 in New Bremen, Ohio for the New Bremen Pumpkinfest. The monster pie was 20 feet wide and weighed and weighed 3,699 pounds.  The recipe included 1,212 lbs of canned pumpkin,  233 dozen eggs, 109 gallons of evaporated milk, 525 pounds of sugar, 7 pounds of salt and 14.5 pounds of cinnamon.

The smallest pumpkin weighs less than a pound, and as of October 9, 2010, the world record largest pumpkin weighed 1,810.5 pounds, grown by Chris Stevens of New Richmond, WI.

Pumpkins are more than Halloween decorations.  The pumpkin is an important food at Thanksgiving, and it has appeared in numerous films, stories and books, not just as a Jack O’Lantern.  One of the most famous pumpkins of all is Cinderella’s magic chariot, that turns back into a pumpkin at the stroke of midnight.

Pumpkins are also featured in a relatively new sport called Punkin Chunkin, which uses several varieties of machine to hurl pumpkins as far as possible.  The Annual Punkin Chunkin World championships are held in early November in Nassau, DE. The longest-chunkin machines are air cannons, and the current world-record set in 2008 by Young Glory II is 4,483.51 feet, or over ¾ of a mile.

There are hundreds of varieties of pumpkins, and they aren’t just orange.  Pumpkins, like gourds, can be white, yellow, green or even pale blue.  The most popular current variety of Halloween pumpkin is the Howden Field pumpkin, which averages 20 to 60 pounds.  Another popular traditional variety of pumpkin is the Connecticut Field or Big Tom pumpkin, which averages 20-25 pounds.  Special varieties of pumpkin, like white Ghost pumpkins or miniature Jack Be Little, Baby Bear or Li’l Goblin pumpkins, are now found at markets and pumpkin patches throughout the harvest season.




Trick or Treating

Posted by admin On October - 31 - 2010ADD COMMENTS

Trick or Treating

Trick or treating is the most popular Halloween activity for children in North America.  The tradition evolved from adult “mummers” and people going “a-souling” door to door in medieval England, Ireland and Scotland.  They would request a “soul cake” after performing a song, or dress in costumes and give a brief performance for food and drink.  Over time, playing tricks on Halloween in America evolved into children going door to door on Halloween requesting a treat, so the homeowner wouldn’t have a trick played on them.

How old is too old to go trick or treating?  Some US cities have passed ordinances that kids over age 12 can’t trick or treat.  That’s probably going too far, but older teens and adults are likely a little too old to trick or treat, especially if they might scare a mom or dad opening a door and expecting little ones.

Costumes range from simple home-made sheets for ghosts to elaborate store-bought costumes, makeup and other disguises inspired by famous characters in movies and television, including monsters, ghouls, pirates and witches.  Every year the most popular costumes reflect popular tastes – some years pirates are in and ninjas are out.  Little girls always want to be fairies or princesses.  Be sure to tell them how beautiful they are when they show up at your house.

If you’re the host to trick-or-treaters, here are the commonly-accepted rules:  first, turn your porch light on during the time you expect trick-or-treaters to let them know you are “open for business.”  Some homeowners take the holiday so seriously that they decorate their yards and wait on their porch or in the garage for trick-or-treaters.  One treat per child is fine, but the host can decide if more is okay, depending upon supplies.  Keep control of the candy bowl to prevent enthusiastic kids from grabbing large amounts of candy.  You can substitute non-candy items like school supplies or small toys – just be aware that for most kids, it’s all about the candy.  Dentists officially say that candy a few times a year won’t contribute any more to tooth decay than soda, juice, or even white bread, all of which produce the same effect on teeth as candy.

For parents and kids, safety is the biggest concern.  Parents should attend trick-or-treating for all young children.  Older kids should always trick-or-treat in groups.  Kids should never enter a house while trick-or-treating, and should never go with strangers.  Fire safety is also a concern.  Lit candles in Jack O’Lanterns are beautiful, but every year, fire accidents occur when children’s costumes come too close to fire.  Homeowners should keep all candles and other burning items well away from where children will be.  Costumes and decorations should always be made from fire-resistant materials.

The fear of poisoned or sabotaged Halloween candy or razors in apples arises on every Halloween.  Unwrapped candy, home-made items, or suspicious-appearing fruit should never be distributed or consumed.  Parents should examine all candy prior to allowing their children to eat it.  Today’s large Halloween candy displays and options always include safely pre-wrapped candy.  The safety rule is: when in doubt, throw it out.   Is it common that poisonings or sabotage occurs on Halloween?  No.  Researchers have found that only 13 injuries were caused by poisoning or injury related to Halloween candy or food in recent years.  However, Halloween accidents, such as falls, motor vehicle accidents and burns, are common and do occur every year.  A great alternative to trick-or-treating also exists in sponsoring your own Halloween party with games and treats, or attending community or school carnivals and festivals, which grow in popularity every year.