Pumpkins and Halloween go hand-in-hand here in the U.S. and Canada. Put down your pumpkin carving knife and grab a piece of pumpkin bread while you enjoy these fun pumpkin facts this fall!
1. Pumpkins are part of the winter squash family. Winter squashes are usually defined as those harvested later in the season, with tough outer rinds. Summer squash are harvested earlier and have more tender skins, like zucchini. All belong to the genus Cucurbita. In Australia and New Zealand, the word “pumpkin” refers to any type of winter squash, including those like butternut squash and acorn squash. Pumpkins are native to North America, along with all other varieties of squash, but have become a favorite vegetable in many parts of the world.
2. The world’s largest pumpkin weighs 2,032 pounds (921 kg). The record was set just this year by Tim Mathison in California. The pumpkin took 105 days to grow to this massive weight, which is about the same as a Clydesdale horse. The pumpkin is on display at the New York Botanical Garden right now. Want to trying breaking the record yourself next year? Get info on growing giant pumpkins by clicking here.
3. Not every pumpkin is good for pie. Nature has provided us with a variety of pumpkin types, and humans have cultivated and hybridized even more. Pumpkins used for carving are usually larger types like ‘Connecticut Field’ and ‘Howden’. Those used for cooking and baking are smaller varieties known as “sugar pumpkins”, and include ‘New England Pie Pumpkin’ and ‘Baby Pam’. White pumpkins like ‘Baby Boo’ and ‘Caspar’ are gaining in popularity, too. These pumpkins are white on the outside but retain the bright orange flesh inside, so they make for really interesting carved pumpkins.
4. Jack-o-lanterns weren’t originally made from pumpkins. The idea of carving fall veggies goes back a long way. Many attribute the first Halloween-style carvings to the Irish, who usually used turnips or beets. When folks from these countries came to America, they found pumpkins worked even better, and started using them as well. Just why did the Irish start carving faces into vegetables in the first place? That all goes back to the tale of Stingy Jack and his deals with the devil. Get the whole story by clicking here.
5. There’s more to pumpkin than pie. If the only way you’ve ever had pumpkin is in a pie, you’re missing out! Pumpkin can be stewed, roasted, baked, and even pickled. Make Thai Pumpkin Curry or Pumpkin Lasagna for something different, or give Green Pumpkin Pie a try, à la Laura Ingalls Wilder. Pumpkin seeds can be roasted and seasoned for a delicious treat (or offer unsalted, unseasoned ones to your backyard birds). And if you can catch them early in the season, fry your pumpkin blossoms for a Southwestern treat.