October 10, 2007

Pumpkin 101

The pumpkin originated in central America. It isrelated to squash, cucumbers & cantaloupes; & is a member of the vine crops family called cucurbits. Although the pumpkin is often grouped into the vegetable family it is technically a fruit. The name pumpkin originated from "pepon" - the Greek word for large melon.

Native American Indians grew pumpkins for food long before any European explorers arrived. Columbus carried pumpkin seeds on his return trips to Europe, but the pumpkins were used to feed pigs. Long before the discovery of corn, Native Americans depended on pumpkins to help them through the lengthy winters. Over the centuries, they found many ways to enjoy the sweet inner meat of this nutritious winter squash: baked, boiled, roasted, fried, parched or dried. They added pumpkin blossoms to soups & stews, turned dried pumpkin pieces into rich flour and munched on the seeds as a tasty snack.

  • Pumpkin seeds have been found in ancient Asian ruins & in prehistoric cliff dwellings in Colorado. Native Americans called pumpkins "isoquotum squash".
  • They flattened strips of pumpkins, dried them & made mats. Native Americans used pumpkin seeds for food & medicine.
  • In early colonial times, pumkins were used as an ingredient for the CRUST of pies, not the filling.
  • Colonists sliced off pumpkin tips; removed seeds and filled the insides with milk, spices & honey. This was baked in hot ashes and is the origin of pumpkin pie.
  • Pumpkins were once recommended for removing freckles & curing snakebites.
  • This fruit is 90% water. They range in size from under one pound to over 1,000 pounds. The largest pumpkin ever grown was 1,689 pounds.
  • Pumpkins are used to make soups, pies & breads. The largest pumpkin pie ever made was over five feet in diameter & weighed over 150 pounds. It used 80 pounds of cooked pumpkin, 36 pounds of sugar, 12 dozen eggs and took six hours to bake.
  • The Connecticut field variety is the traditional American pumpkin. Eighty percent of the pumpkin supply in the US is available in October.
  • Pumpkins are used for feed for animals.
  • Pumpkin flowers are edible.

PUMPKIN SEEDS can be roasted as a snack. Scoop seeds out of pumpkin. Seperate & discard pulp. Thoroughly wash seeds, then spread them out onto a cookie sheet. Sprinkle generously with salt. Put into oven and bake at 350-degrees for approximately 20 minutes. Check every five minutes & stir, adding more salt or to taste. Once the insides are dry, the seeds are done. WARNING: When checking, allow your sample to cool before tasting!

PUMPKIN PUREE? Select a ripe & firm medium-sized pumpkin. Cut open the pumpkin and remove the seeds & strings. Cut the pumpkin into 4-to-8 pieces. Place the pieces of pumpkin onto a large baking pan that you have lined with aluminum foil. Bake in the oven at 375-degrees for 1-1/2 hours or until the pulp is soft. Remove the pulp from the rind with a spoon & discard the rind. Blend the pulp until smooth with a blender, food processor or mixer. To create a really thick puree, place the pulp into a cheesecloth & squeeze out any excess water.