These pumpkin facts are commonly known: they look good carved up as jack-o’-lanterns for Halloween and taste delicious served up as pie for Thanksgiving. But what else do people really know about pumpkins? Ask someone if the almighty orange one is a fruit or a vegetable, and even that may be beyond their basic collection of pumpkin facts.
Pumpkin Facts 101
In case you were wondering yourself whether a pumpkin is a fruit or a vegetable, the answer is a fruit. Pumpkins are in the squash family and a Cucurbita family member. The cucumber is also within this family, which is ironic since there is often much debate about whether this is a fruit or vegetable as well. The name started with the Greeks with the word Pepon, which translates to mean large melon, was altered by the French, then the British and finally by American colonists to the name we now know and love.
For a little more trivia type information about pumpkins, it might be interesting to know even Alaska grows these fruits. Antarctica is the only continent that does not, because it cannot, grow these fruits. That brings us to the origin of the “large melon” within Native America. These fruits have been cultivated in the States for 5,000 years. It was a Native American Indian crop, picked up and renamed by the colonists. The first pumpkin pie was actually a slightly different version, which consisted of baking a pumpkin that had been filled with honey, spices and milk.
Pumpkins provide fiber, Vitamin A and Vitamin B, iron, protein and potassium. Not to mention, they are also low fat. Pumpkin seeds are also edible. In fact, a popular thing to do with seeds scooped from a pumpkin during carving at Halloween is to give them a good scrub down and pop them in the oven until slightly golden for a tasty treat. That leads into another batch of fun facts about pumpkins—the jack-o’-lantern.
Carving of the Pumpkin
Jack-o’-lanterns in the United States started from Irish immigrants who had previously been using turnips. Once these Irish immigrants saw how much easier it would be to carve a pumpkin as opposed to a turnip, they made the conversion. Of course, you may be wondering why the Irish had been carving turnips in the first place, which leads directly to the history of the jack-o’-lantern.
Irish tales go on about a fellow by the name of Jack who struck up a deal with the Devil while drinking. Being a miser, the man somehow talked the demon into transforming into a coin to be used to pay their bar tab. Then, clever Jack decided to put that coin in his pocket next to a cross, which would keep the Devil from returning to his natural state. Later, the demon and man made another agreement. In this agreement, if Mr. Stingy would free the Devil from his current state, as currency, the Devil would steer clear of soul snatching this fellow for a decade.
At the end of the decade though, Jack happened to run into the Devil while strolling along a rural road. For good reason, the demon felt he should be able to cash in on grabbing that soul of Mr. Stingy, who agreed but not before a quick fruit snack. Jack again tricked the Devil to climb a tree for an apple, and kept the Devil stuck by carving a cross into the trunk. This time the bargaining went better for Jack who made the demon agree to never touch the man’s soul. Again, the Devil agreed.
Following the stingy man’s death though, it turned out Heaven wasn’t interested in his soul and Hell couldn’t take it. The Devil cast Jack back to Earth giving him a burning coal to light the way. Jack, using the first thing he could find, carved up a turnip and created what became the first jack-o’-lantern.
The Irish kept the turnip tradition going until moving to America an finding a much more sensible thing to use, the pumpkin.
Other Pumpkin Facts
If you think you feel full after a dessert of pumpkin pie, imagine downing the largest pumpkin pie in history. This “large melon” fruit pie weighed in at 2,020 pounds. It wasn’t even made from the largest pumpkin ever grown. That honor goes to a Wisconsin resident by the name of Chris Stevens, and the prize winning, world record setting pumpkin was a massive 1,810 pounds.
So the next time pumpkin trivia comes up on Jeopardy, you’ll be full of all the pumpkin facts you need.