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Pumpkin History and How to Pick the Best One!

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Autumn really is my favorite time of year.  Although I am not sure the reason, fall and Halloween are like a coming home feeling after a long time away.  So, no matter what state, country or continent I lived in, when October blew in, my senses seemed to be heightened and I would start my search for the best pumpkin I could find. I also have always been interested in it's mysterious past.  Here is what I discovered in my research when wanting to learn more about the pumpkins bbeginnings

History of the Pumpkin

The earliest evidence of Pumpkins are found in Central America.  Seeds have been found in Mexico dating back over 7000 years to 5500 B.C. of species that are related to our modern day pumpkin.  It was a staple in the diets of many Native Americans for centuries. They called the pumpkin “isqoutm" Squash.”  The word "Pumpkin" comes from the Greek word "pepon" which means "large melon"." The word was spoken in France as "pompon" and changed by the English to "Pumpion." American colonists changed "pumpion" into "pumpkin" . They would fill a hollowed out shell with milk, honey, and spices, then they would place it in hot ashes until baked. This is believed to be the origin of the pumpkin pie. .

History of the Jack-o-Lantern

Few people know that Jack-o-Lanterns originate from Ireland. It comes from an Irish myth about a man nicknamed "Stingy Jack." The Story goes something like this...

Stingy Jack was a miserable, old drunk who liked to play tricks on everyone: family, friends, his mother and even the Devil himself. One day, he tricked the Devil into climbing up an apple tree. As soon as he did, Stingy Jack Placed crosses around the trunk of the tree. Unable to get down the tree, Stingy Jack made the Devil promise him not to take his soul when he died. When Jack finally died, he went to the pearly gates of Heaven and was told he was too mean and too cruel and had led a miserable and worthless life on earth. He was not allowed to enter heaven. He then went down to Hell and the Devil. The Devil kept his promise and would not allow him to enter Hell. Now Jack was scared and had nowhere to go but to wander about forever in the darkness between heaven and hell. He asked the Devil how he could leave as there was no light. The Devil tossed him an ember from the flames of Hell to help him light his way. Jack placed the ember in a hollowed out Turnip, one of his favorite foods which he always carried around with him whenever he could steal one. From that day on, Stingy Jack roamed the earth without a resting place.

On all Hallow's eve, Turnips, rutabagas, gourds, potatoes and beets were hallowed out and lit up by many Irish, to help ward off evil spirits and keep Stingy Jack away. They began to refer to this ghostly figure as "Jack of the Lantern," and then, simply "Jack O'Lantern." When the Irish came to the US in the mid 1800s, they brought their traditions with them and discovered that pumpkins were much easier to carve.

Pumpkins today

Pumpkins are used to make pies, soups and breads. The seeds are often roasted for a nice autumn snack as well. Contests are held all over for those growing large pumpkins.  The largest one ever grown, as of the date of writing this, was grown by Tim Mathison. On October 11, 2013, Tim brought his now world record 2032 pound pumpkin. The biggest pumpkin pie ever made was over five feet in diameter and weighed over 350 pounds. Baked by the people of New Bremen, Ohio. It took over 80 pumpkins to make the pie.

Tips for selecting that perfect pumpkin.

  • Choose a pumpkin with a stem and never carry it by the stem. Pumpkins without a stem will not last long.
  • Select a pumpkin with a flat bottom, so it will stand upright.
  • Avoid pumpkins with holes, cuts or soft spots. These areas will rot.
  • Light colored pumpkins are easier to carve because the skin is not as hard as darker orange colored ones, but they will not keep as well.
  • Wash the pumpkin with warm water and let it dry before carving.
  • To make the pumpkin last longer, keep it in a cool place until ready to carve. After carving, coat the cuts with petroleum jelly.
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