The pumpkin has its day…

by Betty Wrenn Day - Posted on Oct 30, 2013 - 12:35 PM

Photo: The pumpkin is a special member of the gourd family. Pumpkin pie is the most popular use, but only of many, of this versatile fruit. Photos by Elsa Cooke Verbyla

The pumpkin is a special member of the gourd family. Pumpkin pie is the most popular use, but only of many, of this versatile fruit. Photos by Elsa Cooke Verbyla

Photo:
It’s that time of the year when those ridged orange balls, small, medium and large, appear in abundance. In this country they go hand in hand with fall. The pumpkin is here and its services to mankind go beyond than just being carved into a jack-o’-lantern.

This nutritious and versatile plant features flowers, seeds and flesh that are edible and rich in vitamins. From the blossoms to the seeds to the pumpkin itself, this fruit is used for soups, desserts, appetizers, breads and even as containers.

Pumpkins are a member of the gourd family, which includes cucumbers, honeydew melons, cantaloupe, watermelon and zucchini. They are native to Central America and Mexico, and are now grown on six continents. U.S. farmers grow more than 1.5 billion pounds of pumpkins annually.

References to pumpkins date back many centuries. In 1584 Frenchman Jacques Cartier, after exploring the St. Lawrence region of North America, reported finding "gros melons." Its present name of pumpkin originated from the Greek name "pepon" which translated means "large melon." The French changed "pepon" to "pompon"; the English changed "pompon" to "pumpion" and it was the American colonists who changed "pumpion" to "pumpkin." However, Native Americans called them "isqoutm squash."

The pumpkin was one of many foods eaten by Native American Indians, a food source both fresh and dried. They also pounded strips of pumpkin flat, dried them, and then wove them into mats. The pumpkin pie originated when the colonists sliced off the pumpkin top, removed the seeds and filled the insides with milk, spices and honey. The gourd was then baked in hot ashes. It wasn’t long before they learned of a new use for the pumpkin: they made pumpkin beer.