The pumpkin is a versatile fruit. Not only is it delicious as a pie but equally good as well cooked into a stew, stir-fired with other vegetable or with onion and apple or made into a creamy soup, puddings and custards. It is used in bread, cookies and cakes.
One way to enjoy pumpkin, aside from the pie, is to bake it like you would sweet potato. Peel, cut into bite size chunks and baked with melted butter, pumpkin pie spice, a bit of chopped onion, brown sugar and just before it is quite done, spread a layer of mini-marshmallows over the top and let them melt and cook until the marshmallow is golden brown.
Even the seeds of the pumpkin are good to eat and very good for you, roasted over a fire and eaten still warm. I like them lightly salted but they are good without the salt as well. You can dry the seeds and they will keep for a very long time as long as you keep them in a cool dry place. Once dried, the pumpkin seeds can also be ground and added to flour for your baking. It is especially good in bread, and it adds to the over all nutritional value.
The fruit of the pumpkin plant may be no bigger than the palm of your hand or may grow as large as two feet or more in diameter. It is an amazing fruit.
Pumpkins have even made it into nursery tales:
“Peter, Peter, pumpkin eater had a wife and couldn’t keep her. He put her in a pumpkin shell and there he kept her very well.” This nursery rhyme is commonly accompanied with a drawing of a pumpkin used as a house or home.
An interesting side note on the pumpkin and its amazing growth is found in the Guinness Book of World Records about a monster of a pumpkin gourd that grew to weigh 1,502 pounds. This pumpkin was grown by Ron Wallace of Greene, Rhode Island. He eventually sold this monstrous gourd
and it was used to help promote a fund raising event for the Food Bank in New York City who had the artist, Hugh McMahon carve it into a gigantic jack-o-lantern that he carved into the face of a gorilla. It required a 200 watt light bulb to light this jack-o-lantern enough to make it glow. Not only was this pumpkin itself of great value but the seeds inside were very valuable too.
There are a whole lot of seeds in a small pumpkin so try to imagine the number of seeds in a pumpkin that is more than nine feet in circumference, that’s a lot of seed and Mr. Wallace dug them all out, all the seeds and yuk that are the gut of the famous world record pumpkin. He literally had to crawl inside the pumpkin to clean it. I imagine it might have been a pretty icky job. The seeds themselves, say nothing of the pumpkin sold for well over 200 dollars. You can buy a good sized bag of pumpkin seeds at your local grocery store for around 99 cents give or take a few pennies.
You can buy pumpkin in most of your larger grocery markets year round now but when most folks think of pumpkin, they also think of fall, the autumn time of year. Autumn and pumpkins just seem to go together. Maybe it is its carnelian color that goes so well with the flamboyant colors of the autumn leaves. Pumpkin, any way you slice it, is a good thing.
The pumpkin is native to North America and was cultivated by the Native Americans long before the white man ever set foot on this continent. It was a primary part of their diet. The fruit was sliced, dried and stored for winter consumption. The seeds were pressed for their oil used in cooking. It still is. It was the Native American who introduced this hearty and healthy fruit to the Pilgrims in that first year when they struggled to survive in the New World. It literally saved them from starvation and death.
Pumpkin is very high in antioxidants, namely carotene and lutein that fight free radicals that attack our body cells and damage them. It is high in iron, zinc and fiber, vitamins A and E, copper, magnesium and phytosterol, the fatty acids from plants that help control blood cholesterol levels, helping to prevent heart attack and stroke as well as maintaining healthy blood vessels, skin and nerves, all things our body needs to maintain good health.
Of course we all know what else the great pumpkin is famous for, the jack-o-lantern, Halloween, the hollowed out, carved pumpkin with its grinning or leering face, its glowing eyes, lighted on Hallows Eve (Halloween) to ward off evil spirits and to welcome the spirits of your deceased loved ones, family and friends. Only a handful of jack-o-lantern carvers even give a thought to why these pumpkins are carved and lighted on this particular night, many probably don’t even know.
Pumpkins are now not only carved into grinning or leering faces but into many ornate and very artistic designs with competitions held and prizes given for the best carvings of the great pumpkin. Originally these lights of Hallows Eve were not made from pumpkin. Pumpkins weren’t even heard of in Europe until sometime in the late eighteenth century when seeds were brought there from America. These lights are originally part of a Celtic religious celebration and were a hollowed out vegetable such as a beet, a potato or a gourd into which a hot coal was placed and kept burning throughout the celebration to protect you and your home from the evil spirits of the underworld. Eventually candles were used to replace the hot coals.
There is an Irish legend behind the original jack-o-lantern and it goes something like this: There once was a man named Jack who was known to be a trickster, a liar and a very greedy man who cheated his neighbors and had even cheated the Devil himself many times. When Jack died with all his sins he was not allowed to enter Heaven and was turned away from Heavens Gate. He didn’t make it into Hell either, having so many times tricked the Devil, the Devil wanted nothing to do with this conniving, cheating, trickster of a soul and Jack was turned away from the gates of Hell as well. Not being welcomed in either place, this left Jack with no place to go and his spirit was left to wander the Earth for all eternity with only a hollowed out gourd lighted by a burning coal from the pits of Hell to light his way. Thus we have the Jack-o-lantern, a familiar symbol of Halloween or Hallows Eve.
The Great pumpkin, an autumn tradition, part of most all country scenes.
Oh how I love a good pumpkin pie, seasoned just right and topped with a dab of real whipped cream and a sprinkle of crushed walnuts. Pumpkin is good for you, any way you slice it and if you happen to be a pumpkin carver, don’t waste the seeds and pulp by throwing them away. They are good for you, eat them, and enjoy them. You’ll be glad you did.