By Cameron Jenkins
Fall has definitely arrived here in East Lansing! The leaves are vibrantly red and orange, and there is a crisp feel in the air. Fall is my favorite season because of the atmosphere, but also because of the seasonal foods. A notable fall celebrity would be the pumpkin.
What prompted my research for this post was a conversation with my roommates about what part of the pumpkin is the “orange puree stuff” that you can purchase in a can. We debated about it for a while until one of us looked it up. The puree comes from the pumpkin shell– minus the skin. This is called the pulp, or the meat, and it is what is then mashed up and sold to you in a can. The other parts of the pumpkin include the fibrous strands and seeds. You throw out the gunky strands but can keep, roast, and eat the seeds.
So, now we know about that. But then my curiosity took off with a million questions to be asked– How long does it take to grow a pumpkin? Where did they originate from? What makes them so delicious? Why do we make faces on them? You’re in luck, friends, cause you’re about to find out.
The word pumpkin originates from the Greek word “pepõn,” which means large melon. Eventually through translations, the word morphed from French to English into the classic word we know today. Squash, along with pumpkins, are believed to have originated form the Americas. The Native Americans tended to “The Three Sisters” of squash, corn, and beans, as they thrive together in a sustainable fashion. They were practicing an early form of sustainable agriculture– how cool! The Natives introduced the pumpkins to the Pilgrims, and they soon became a major food source for them. The squash was a major key to surviving winter. Anyone else mentally picturing Thanksgiving, too? (Source).
We enjoy this gourd in the autumn time, but farmers are busy planting around the last week of May. Pumpkins take around 90 to 120 days to grow! They turn that bright, classic orange color in October when it is time to harvest. The seeds can be planted again in May and therefore start the process again. (Source).
The harvesting month of October has Halloween in it, a holiday that is associated with carving faces into pumpkins. But actually, the pumpkin was not part of the tradition in beginnings of Halloween. The whole holiday started overseas….
“Modern Halloween comes from the Irish festival Samhain, an occasion that marked the passage from the summer harvest season to the dark of winter. Tradition dictated huge bonfires be built in fields, and it was believed that fairy spirits lurked in the shadows. To distract these spirits from settling into houses and farms, people would carve rudimentary faces into large turnips, and set candles inside. The turnip lanterns would rest along roadways and next to gates, to both light the way for travelers and caution any passing fairies against invading.” (Source).
Halloween didn’t exist in America until Irish and Scottish Immigrants arrived in the 1800’s. Pumpkins are native to the Americas, so over time the gourd was adopted. According to the source I read, the actual origins of the jack-o-lantern becoming a thing are not certain, but probably in the late 1800’s. They just eventually became more and more popular. Trick or treating, costumes, and candy consuming really came around in the 1930’s. (Source).
We carve them, we eat them, and we even drink pumpkin-flavored beverages. The pumpkin is full of carbohydrates, fiber, vitamin A, carotenoids, and has a whopping 49 calories per cup that can put this gourd on a list of healthy foods.
After writing this post, I am now even more ready for Halloween and to order a pumpkin spice latte on my way to class tomorrow. As I sip it though, I will think about all this new knowledge that I have on the pumpkin. I hope you all may find some new use of this info, too.
Here are some more links to interesting pumpkin things in case you are hungry for more: