5 Fascinating Facts About Pumpkins

Get ready for fall by learning more about pumpkins.

pumpkinsCourtesy Bill Farrell/Country magazine

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 weighed 2,032 pounds 

The record was set by Tim Mathison in California. His pumpkin took 105 days to grow to this massive weight, which is about the same as a Clydesdale horse. The pumpkin was displayed at the New York Botanical Garden.

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 Jack-o-lanterns weren’t originally made from pumpkins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.

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. 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.

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Jill Staake
Jill lives in Tampa, Florida, and writes about gardening, butterflies, outdoor projects and birding. When she's not gardening, you'll find her reading, traveling and happily digging her toes into the sand on the beach.