Pumpkins: How to Make Harvest Food and Decoration

Did you know that pumpkins were once recommended as a cure for freckles or a snake bite remedy? The pumpkin, a member of the Curcurbits family which contains squash and cucumber has been used for hundreds of years. Pumpkins are believed to have originated in Central America as similar types of seeds have been found in that date back over five thousand years.

The pumpkin has become closely associated with Halloween and Thanksgiving not only for pumpkin pies but also for decorating our homes during the harvest season. Many people enjoy carving pumpkins for display, but did you know that the Jack-o-Lantern was brought to by the Irish?

The Legend of the Jack- o- Lantern

The legend of the Jack-o-Lantern originates in Irish folklore. Stingy Jack, a miserable old thief, loved to play pranks and tricks upon his neighbors, his mother, and even the Devil. The legend tells of Jack convincing the Devil to climb to the top of an apple tree. When he reached the top, Jack placed crosses all around the base of the tree preventing the Devil from getting down. He made the Devil promise not to take his soul when he died. After the promise was made, Stingy Jack removed the crosses and let the Devil down from the tree. When Stingy Jack died, St. Peter would not let him into heaven as he had lived a worthless life. So, Jack went to the Devil who kept his promise and would not let Jack into hell. Jack was doomed to wander in the darkness between heaven and hell. He asked the Devil how he would see in the dark. The Devil gave Stingy Jack light from the flames of hell which Jack placed inside a stolen hollowed out turnip that that he liked to carry. From that day on, Stingy Jack wandered the darkness carrying a Jack-o-Lantern.

The Irish on all Hollow’s Eve put lit candles into gourds or turnips to keep Stingy Jack away. The Irish brought this ritual with them when they immigrated to. However, they discovered that pumpkins were larger and easier to use.

Not only has the pumpkin been used as to decorate homes but it has become a staple for a variety of Thanksgiving recipes. It is not definite if the Pilgrims actually had pumpkins for Thanksgiving, but it is known that the early settlers soon adopted the Native American penchant for eating pumpkins. The pumpkin, which is 90% water, is rich in vitamin A and Potassium and is a good source of fiber. Pumpkins are used in soups, stews, breads, and pies.

Pumpkin Bread Recipe

3 �½ cups of all purpose flour
3 cups of sugar

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 �½ teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon of nutmeg
1 cup oil
2 cups pumpkin-canned
2/3 cup water
4 eggs
1cup chopped nuts
1 cup raisins

Baking Directions:
Mix flour, sugar, soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg in a bowl. In another bowl, mix oil, pumpkin, water and mix well. Beat in 4 eggs. Then add to the flour mixture.Add nuts and raisins to the pumpkin mix.Bake 1 hour and 30 minutes at 325 degrees. Check bread in 1 hour-as some ovens bake faster. Makes 2 loaves. Cool for 20 minutes in pan before removing.

Interesting Pumpkin World Records

In 2005, the world’s record for the largest pumpkin of 1469 pounds went to Larry Checkon of North Cambria, PA.
The fastest carving pumpkin record was 1 minute 14.8 seconds when Steve Clarke of

Haverton, PA carved a pumpkin at the school where he teaches.
In 7 hours and 11 minutes, the record for the most pumpkins carved was established in 1999 when Jerry Ayers of Baltimore, Ohio carve in detail one ton of pumpkins.

Pumpkin Trivia

Pumpkins are orange because of the large amount of beta carotene pigments which contain Vitamin A.
The pumpkin is a fruit not a vegetable.
It takes pumpkins 120 days to mature on the vine. Over 80% of the pumpkins in are available in October.
Over 50 million pumpkin pies are eaten every year.
Pumpkins can be grown on 6 of the 7 continents; only in Antarctica can pumpkins not be grown. Pumpkins can be grown in Alaska!
Pumpkin flowers are edible.
Both George Washington and Thomas Jefferson grew pumpkins.
The typical pumpkin has between 200 and 500 seeds.

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