Pumpkin fun facts
Fall is a time for colours, fog, jack-o’-lanterns, and pumpkin pie. Pumpkins are one of the classic symbols of the season, and spooky jack-o’-lanterns have become a staple of Halloween celebrations everywhere. But long before pumpkin spice lattes became the fall favorite at coffee shops, this orange gourd was a symbol of American family farms and a bountiful harvest. From their ancient roots to the biggest pumpkin ever grown, here are some crazy facts about pumpkins to amuse your friends.
- Pumpkins are among the oldest domesticated plants on Earth, with archaeological and botanical evidence suggesting that people cultivated pumpkins as far back as 10,000 BC. The first cultivated pumpkins were small, hard gourds most likely originating in the highlands of Oaxaca in Mexico.
- Pumpkins are indigenous to the western hemisphere and were completely unknown in Europe before the time of Columbus. In 1584, the French explorer Jacques Cartier reported from the St. Lawrence region that he had found “gros melons”.
- The scientific name for pumpkins is Cucurbita pepo, with “pepo” meaning “to ripen in the sun.” The name pumpkin originated from the Greek word for “large melon” which is “pepon”. The French changed the name to “pompon”. The English then changed the name “pumpion.” The American colonists changed the name to the one that we’re familiar with today when they changed it to “pumpkin”. Native Americans called pumpkins “isqoutm, or isquotersquash.”
- Pumpkins are actually fruits. Though we consider pumpkins, squash and zucchini to be different foods, they are in fact all the same genus and species, and can be bred with one another.
- Native American Indians used pumpkin as a staple in their diets centuries before the pilgrims landed. They also dried strips of pumpkin and wove them into mats. Indians would also roast long strips of pumpkin on the open fire and eat them.
- The origin of pumpkin pie is thought to have occurred when the colonists sliced off the pumpkin top, removed the seeds, and then filled it with milk, spices and honey. The pumpkin was then baked in the hot ashes of a dying fire.
- Other parts of the pumpkin are also edible. The seeds can be a great snack. Each pumpkin has about 500 seeds. High in iron, they can be roasted to eat. The flowers are also edible.
- Health benefits
- Pumpkins are one of the very low calorie vegetables. 100 g of pumpkin provides just 26 calories and contains no saturated fats or cholesterol; however, it is rich in dietary fiber, anti-oxidants, minerals, vitamins. The vegetable is one of the food items recommended by dieticians in cholesterol controlling and weight reduction programs.
- They also have more fiber than kale, more potassium than bananas, and are full of heart-healthy magnesium and iron.
- Pumpkin is a storehouse of many anti-oxidant vitamins such as vitamin-A, vitamin-C and vitamin-E.It is also an excellent source of many natural poly-phenolic flavonoid compounds such as a, ß carotenes, cryptoxanthin, lutein and zea-xanthin. Carotenes convert into vitamin A inside the body.
- Pumpkin seeds indeed are an excellent source of dietary fiber and mono-unsaturated fatty acids, which are good for heart health. In addition, the seeds are concentrated sources of protein, minerals and health-benefiting vitamins. For instance, 100 g of pumpkin seeds provide 559 calories, 30 g of protein, 110% RDA of iron, 4987 mg of niacin (31% RDA), selenium (17% of RDA), zinc (71%) etc., but no cholesterol. Further, the seeds are an excellent source of health promoting amino acid tryptophan. Tryptophan is converted to GABA in the brain.
Way to go pumpkins!
All these pictures were taken at Willow View Farms where they grow over 50 different varieties of pumpkins.