Happy Pumpkin Day.
This Oct. 26 “holiday” may be unofficial — banks and schools are open — but that doesn’t mean we can’t celebrate this colorful cousin to cucumbers.
Didn’t know they’re in the same gourd family? Here’s a pumpkin primer:
• Pumpkin derives from Greek “pepon” (melon, pumpkin).
• Pumpkins are healthy: One cup has no fat, 17 percent daily value vitamin C, and 197 percent vitamin A. They’re also antioxidant-rich, aiding brain function. • Pumpkin is an all-American food. Scientists found 7,000-year old seeds in Mexico. Spanish explorers took pumpkins to Europe; now they’re grown on all continents except Antarctica.
• Native Americans relied on pumpkin and other squash to survive winter. Some used the “three sisters” method of planting pumpkin, corn, and beans together to improve yields. Pumpkin was likely part of the first Thanksgiving.
• Irish immigrants made them part of Hallowe’en; they’re easier to carve than turnips (more on that later).
• Pumpkin was once believed to remove freckles and cure snake bites; it’s still used for bladder, kidney, and intestine problems.
• Jack o’lanterns derive from the Irish legend of Stingy Jack, a miser who tricked the devil and wandered through purgatory with a burning coal in a hollowed-out turnip. Celts of old used turnip-lanterns to guide spirits of loved ones on Samhain, the original Hallowe’en.
• The Guinness Record for biggest pumpkin was set in Belgium in 2016: 2,624 pounds. The biggest pie was 3,699 pounds, 20 feet, and made in Ohio in 2010.
• Smaller pumpkins taste great, yielding 4 cups raw, or 1 cup mashed or pureed, per pound. Seeds can be roasted after carving; use the rest for compost.
And remember: The Great Pumpkin selects only the most sincere pumpkin patch to rise on Hallowe’en, so choose carefully!
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Sholeh Patrick is a most sincere Snoopy and Hallowe’en fan. Contact her if you dare at Sholeh@cdapress.com.