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Pumpkin Facts

Posted by admin On June - 2 - 2011ADD COMMENTS

Pumpkin Facts


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.



Pumpkin Carving

Posted by admin On May - 31 - 2011ADD COMMENTS

Pumpkin Carving


Pumpkin carving has long been a Halloween tradition. Jack-o’-lanterns are seen in many homes as the holiday draws near. In fact, even making a trip to the pumpkin patch to select the biggest and best pumpkin has become a family tradition in many homes. Few people ever even wonder how or why it started or realize that this type of squash wasn’t even the original candle holder.


The Origin of the Jack-o’-Lantern


Legend has it, pumpkin carving and the whole business of jack-o’-lanterns originated, not surprisingly, with a bloke named Jack. This Irish tale of lore varies a bit after that, but the running theme seems to be Jack and the Devil had a run in. Most versions of the story say Jack convinced the Devil to perch himself in a tree after which, Jack whittled the sign of the cross into the bark forcing the Devil to remain in the branches. Jack bargained with the Devil, agreeing to let him down only if he promised not to snatch Jack’s soul following his demise. The Devil, reluctantly agreed.


When Jack did finally kick the bucket, he quickly found out he wasn’t welcome in Heaven. Because of the “restraining order” of sorts against the Devil, Hell couldn’t take him, either. Jack was forced to wander into the dark night with only a hot coal to see his path. Jack located a turnip, carved it and used this as his lantern. His apparition was given the original name Jack the Lantern, or the other version more commonly known.


As for the turnip, or beet in some version, it later became a gourd or pumpkin as people keeping with the tradition found it much easier to work with. The reason for the Halloween tradition was to carve scary faces into the lantern to keep Jack away from homes. Often, the jack-o’-lantern was set out on the night before Halloween to ward off any evil spirits.


Pumpkin Carving


Some tales seem to claim illuminated pumpkins, gourds, beets, turnips or other types of carved fruits or vegetables were originally placed in homes to help welcome friends of family members who had passed on to the spirit world. Either way, the jack-o’-lantern and pumpkin carving have become a large part of the Halloween tradition. For some people, this is the only decoration they use.


The activity itself is often carried out by the entire family, for a messy but bonding holiday experience. A circle surrounding the stem at the top of the pumpkin, and the top is pulled away and set aside. Next, the inside of the pumpkin is hollowed out by removing the seeds. For extra fun, the seeds can be rinsed off and baked in the oven for a seasonal treat.


Once the pumpkin is cleaned out, the pumpkin carving begins. Usually, a design is first drawn on to the front, or face, of the squash. It may be a simple face design or a more intricate design using a pattern. Though a scary face is the most common look, some people opt for either a more friendly face or a Halloween scene with witches and cats, for example. Once the pattern is actually cut, a candle is placed inside and the top put back.


Some homes choose to have a display of multiple jack-o’-lanterns for optimal décor. This can also be so each member of the family has their very own carved pumpkin.


Alternatives to Carved Pumpkins


The tradition continues to evolve as some homes opt for illuminated devices other than the pumpkin. Aside from other types of carved gourds, some people choose to use decorative jars or punched tins to create and eerie yet decorative holiday look.


A more popular alternative to carved pumpkins in recent years in the electrical jack-o’-lantern, a fake pumpkin that plugs into the wall can still give a hauntingly good look to homes that choose to decorate. There are a couple of reasons some people have made the switch from au natural to electric. One reason is safety. The traditional candle lit jack-o’-lanterns were more of a risk of a fire hazard. The other reason to choose a plug in pumpkin is that it can simply be put away and reused the next year. Not to mention, these types of gourds don’t get targeted for the mischief night tradition of pumpkin smashing.


Whether you choose a pumpkin that runs on candle or electric current, the look of carved pumpkins is sure to be a long time tradition of the Halloween festivities.