While the first day of fall isn’t until September 23rd, I couldn’t help but feel like it was already here when I jumped into the car this morning and had to turn on the heat and defog the windshield. Now, I know that we will most probably get some more hot weather that teases us into thinking that it is still summer, but for a guy like me who loves everything about fall, I am pretty happy. For as long as I can remember, fall has been my favorite time of year. The cooler days, the beautiful landscapes of leaves turning orange and falling from trees, Thanksgiving stuffing and Halloween candy, and of course pumpkins. You cannot think of autumn without thinking of pumpkins.
Today, we are going to learn more about the pumpkin, identify the biggest producer of them in Canada, and share some interesting facts.
By definition, a pumpkin is a round, orange type of squash that grows on a plant also called a pumpkin. It is most commonly known as the raw material needed for a jack-o’-lantern, the artists tool of choice for carving on Halloween, and the key ingredient in my wife’s favorite autumn beverage, a pumpkin spice latte. While pumpkin spice lattes may have dominated every autumnal season in recent memory, did you know that pumpkins have been on earth for a whopping 5,000 years!
There’s so much more to the fruit than Starbucks, including its honorable contributions to the pie universe, its superfood status, and of course, its origin story. And yes folks, a pumpkin is considered a fruit! More on that later.
Here’s everything you need to know about fall’s favorite food.
Pumpkins are most commonly harvested in the fall, and they’re often associated with Halloween, when kids and adults alike all over the world traditionally hollow them out and carve faces on them. Most popular carving ideas for 2019 include owls, witches, minions, and Donald Trump.
Mathias Willemijns of Belgium set the current world record for heaviest pumpkin back in Oct. 2016 with one that weighed a whopping 2,624 pounds, according to the Guinness World Records. With a 2,624-pound pumpkin, who could bake one heck of beauty pumpkin pie!
The word “pumpkin” showed up for the first time in the fairy tale Cinderella. A French explorer in 1584 first called them “gros melons,” which was translated into English as “pompions,” according to History. It wasn’t until the 17th century that they were first referred to as pumpkins.
The original jack-o’-lanterns were made with turnips and potatoes by the Irish. In England, they used large beets and lit them with embers to ward off evil spirits. Irish immigrants brought their customs to America, but found that pumpkins were much easier to carve.
The largest pumpkin pie ever baked weighed 3,699 pounds. The pumpkin pie originated in the colonies, just not as we know it today. Colonists would cut the tops of pumpkins off, remove the seeds, fill the pumpkins with milk, spices, and honey, then bake them in hot ashes.
Each pumpkin has about 500 seeds. They take between 90 and 120 days to grow, which is why it’s recommended that they are planted between May and July.
There are more than 45 different varieties of pumpkin. They range in color like red, yellow, and green, and have names like Hooligan, Cotton Candy, and Orange Smoothie.
Pumpkins are technically fruit. More specifically, they are a winter squash in the family Cucurbitacae, which includes cucumbers and melons. However, because they’re savory, many people just call them vegetables anyway.
Every single part of a pumpkin is edible. True folks, you can eat the skin, leaves, flowers, pulp, seeds, and even the stem!
Pumpkins are 90% water, which makes them a low-calorie food. One cup of canned pumpkin has less than 100 calories and only half a gram of fat. In comparison, the same serving size of sweet potato has triple the calories. They also have more fiber than kale, more potassium than bananas, and are full of heart-healthy magnesium and iron.
It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown. In 1966, Charles Schulz introduced the Great Pumpkin. Linus says, “Each year, the Great Pumpkin rises out of the pumpkin patch that he thinks is the most sincere.”
The pumpkin carving tradition comes from an ancient Celtic custom which was brought to America by European immigrants.
Lastly, and in my best David Letterman voice – the number one fact about pumpkins in Canada is…
Chatham-Kent is the number one producer of pumpkins in all of Canada!
Remember folks, As the seasons change and Autumn works its way to winter, be sure to take it all in. Enjoy Autumn by just getting outside and taking advantage of the foods and pleasures that are unique to Chatham-Kent and to this season.
Remember that here in Chatham-Kent “We Grow for the World.” Check out our community agriculture website at wegrowfortheworld.com
Anthony Wilson is an Economic Development Officer with the Municipality of Chatham-Kent, and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org