23 Interesting Facts About Pumpkins!
Pumpkins are a type of winter squash and belong to the genus Cucurbita. This makes them a part of the gourd family. They’re cultivated in every continent in the world except Antarctica. Pumpkins are found in many dishes, from pies and porridges to soups and curries. You can even cook and eat pumpkin seeds! In addition, some cultures use pumpkins for medicinal purposes. On top of all that, pumpkins find use as spooky decorations during the Halloween season as well. Let us now learn some more fun facts about pumpkins.
Fascinating Pumpkin Facts
- The English word for Pumpkin comes from Ancient Greece.
It’s derived from the Greek word ‘pepon’, which means melon. The word also connects with the Latin word ‘peponem’ and the French word ‘pompom.’
- Pumpkins are fruits, not vegetables.
Since they’re obtained from flowering plants, pumpkins are classified as fruits. Therefore, Pumpkin usually refers to the species Cucurbita pepo. But it may also refer to C. maxima, C. argyrosperma, and C. moschata.
- Pumpkins are one of the oldest domesticated plants in the world.
Pumpkins likely originated in North and Central America. They were then spread across all Europe and elsewhere. People discovered the oldest pumpkin seeds in the Oaxaca Highlands of Mexico. They date back to around 7000 BC!
- While pumpkins are usually orange or deep-yellow, they come in a variety of other colors as well.
You can breed some pumpkins specifically to be green, red, white, and even blue! The usual orange tint of pumpkins is a result of pigments called carotenoids. These are the same pigments found in carrots.
- The world record for the largest pumpkin stands at 2,703 pounds.
The biggest pumpkins usually belong to the species Cucurbita maxima. These pumpkins weigh roughly 75 pounds! By contrast, an average pumpkin weighs between 6 to 18 pounds only.
- There are about 45 different types of pumpkins grown around the world.
These include colossal pumpkin types like Atlantic Giants and Big Moons. They also have tiny pumpkin types like Baby Boos and Sweety Pies. How adorable!
- Pumpkins are usually fertilized by bees.
Squash bees are the primary pollinators of pumpkins. Other species include eastern bumblebees and even honeybees.
- It takes up to 120 days to produce a mature carving pumpkin.
Pumpkins need a long growing season. They get planted in late May in the northern states and early July in the southern states. Each pumpkin can contain up to 500 pumpkin seeds.
- China is the biggest producer of pumpkins in the world.
The country grew 8.4 million tonnes of pumpkins in 2019, accounting for 37% of the total production. By contrast, the United States produced only 0.6 million tonnes of pumpkins in the same year.
- In the United States, Illinois is the largest producer of pumpkins.
Illinois produced 564 million pounds of pumpkins in 2020 – as much as the following five states combined. The village of Morton in Illinois calls itself the ‘Pumpkin Capital of the World’. It’s said to supply more than 80% of the world’s canned pumpkin!
- Almost all parts of the pumpkin are edible and used in cooking.
This includes the fleshy shell, the interior, the leaves, the flowers, and even the seeds! You can eat ripe pumpkins raw or boiled, steamed, or roasted to make various dishes.
- A 3.5 ounce serving of raw pumpkin contains about 26 kilocalories of food energy.
A usual pumpkin contains 92% water, 6.5% carbohydrates, 1% proteins, and only 0.1% fat! They are also good sources of vitamins A and C.
- The edible, nutrient-rich seeds of a pumpkin are also called pepitas.
The seeds are generally long, flat, and oval. They are good sources of proteins, magnesium, zinc, and copper! They are also rich in dietary fiber and micronutrients.
- Pumpkin seed oil finds use as a specialty culinary oil in many places.
It has a very nutty taste and is generally used as a salad dressing. It usually appears red or green and is rich in fatty acids.
- Pumpkins were most likely served during the first Thanksgiving dinner in 1621!
Pumpkins were a staple in the Native American diet. The Natives taught the Pilgrims how to cultivate and cook this fruit. Today, pumpkin pies are served after Thanksgiving dinner.
- The first pumpkin pies differed a lot from modern pies.
Early pumpkin pies were hollowed-out pumpkins baked whole. Cooks filled them with milk, honey, apples, and an assortment of spices.
- After the American Civil War, people disliked pumpkin pies in the southern states. They were seen as a symbol of the northerners.
In retaliation, southern cooks countered by making sweet potato pies. Some would even add bourbon and pecans to their pumpkin pies for a southern twist.
- The Guinness World Record for the largest pumpkin pie was made at the New Bremen Pumpkinfest in Ohio.
It was set in 2010 by the New Bremen Giant Pumpkin Growers. They made a humongous pie 20 feet wide and weighing 3,699 pounds!
- Pumpkins are also carved into Jack-O’-Lanterns during Halloween.
This practice can be traced back to Irish folklore. According to legend, a man named Jack could not enter heaven or hell. He was doomed to roam the earth with only an ember inside a hollow pumpkin to guide him. The carved pumpkins are used to keep Jack and other evil spirits at bay!
- The Illinois farmer Sarah Frey is often called the Pumpkin Queen of America.
Her farms grow about five million pumpkins every year – more than any other farmer in the States. These pumpkins are very popular for Halloween lantern carving.
- Pumpkin Chucking is the sport of hurling a pumpkin across large distances.
It is generally used to get rid of surplus pumpkins after Halloween. People can use slingshots, catapults, and even cannons for this purpose. The annual Pumpkin Chucking World Championship took place in Delaware up until 2013. The record for the longest shot was set in 2010 in Utah at about 5,545 feet!
- Pumpkins find use in folk medicine in the treatment of many diseases.
Native Americans believed that pumpkins could cure intestinal worms. Pumpkin seeds were also a part of ancient Chinese medicine. They used them to remove tapeworms. They also used them to treat parasitic diseases like schistosomiasis.
- The first known use of the word ‘pumpkin’ in literature is in the fairy tale of Cinderella.
In the story, the Fairy Godmother magically transforms a pumpkin into an elegant coach to take Cinderella to the Prince’s ball.
As you have seen, pumpkins have a long and glorious history behind them. Being one of the oldest crops in America, they have become a part of our kitchens and our traditions. They’re cooked and eaten in many different ways in different cultures. They are used in various dishes, from savory soups to delicious pies. They form an essential part of our Thanksgiving dinners and Halloween celebrations. They even show up in medicinal applications and literary classics. All in all, pumpkins are one of the most nutritious, versatile, and interesting crops known to us!