Saturday, October 18, 2008

In Praise of Pumpkins!


Those strange and beautiful fruits. I try to imagine the first Neandrathal (or whomever/whatever) that stumbled across one. Whoa! What the hey!

Is it a spirit? A toy? Should I lug it home and place it on an altar? Should I sit on it, kick it around the room -- or could I -- can it be possible -- eat that thing?

Pumpkin History

According to the University of Illinois extension service, "references to pumpkins date back many centuries. The name pumpkin originated from the Greek word for "large melon" which is "pepon." "Pepon" was nasalized by the French into "pompon." The English changed "pompon" to "Pumpion." Shakespeare referred to the "pumpion" in his Merry Wives of Windsor. American colonists changed "pumpion" into "pumpkin." The "pumpkin" is referred to in The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, Peter, Peter, Pumpkin Eater and Cinderella."

Native Americans dried strips of pumpkin and wove them into mats. They also roasted long strips of pumpkin on the open fire and ate them. The origin of pumpkin pie occurred when the colonists sliced off the pumpkin top, removed the seeds, and filled the insides with milk, spices and honey. The pumpkin was then baked in hot ashes.


Pumpkin Facts

Here are some interesting factoids about pumpkins, compliments of the History Channel:
  • Pumpkins are fruits. A pumpkin is a type of squash and is a member of the gourd family (Cucurbitacae), which also includes squash, cucumbers, gherkins, and melons.

  • The largest pumpkin pie ever baked was in 2005 and weighed 2,020 pounds.

  • Pumpkins have been grown in North America for five thousand years. They are indigenous to the western hemisphere.

  • In 1584, after French explorer Jacques Cartier explored the St. Lawrence region of North America, he reported finding "gros melons." The name was translated into English as "pompions," which has since evolved into the modern "pumpkin."

  • Pumpkins are low in calories, fat, and sodium and high in fiber. They are good sources of Vitamin A, Vitamin B, potassium, protein, and iron.

  • The largest pumpkin ever grown was 1,689 pounds. It was grown by Joe Jutras of North Scituate, Rhode Island. My husband, J., grows pumpkins for our grandsons every year -- but his record is only 60 pounds. Quite a respectable pumpkin, I might add.

  • Pumpkin seeds should be planted between the last week of May and the middle of June. They take between 90 and 120 days to grow and are picked in October when they are bright orange in color. Their seeds can be saved to grow new pumpkins the next year.
Jack O' Lanterns

The History Channel also offers the following history of Jack O' Lanterns:

"The practice originated from an Irish myth about a man nicknamed "Stingy Jack." According to the story, Stingy Jack invited the Devil to have a drink with him. True to his name, Stingy Jack didn't want to pay for his drink, so he convinced the Devil to turn himself into a coin that Jack could use to buy their drinks. Once the Devil did so, Jack decided to keep the money and put it into his pocket next to a silver cross, which prevented the Devil from changing back into his original form. Jack eventually freed the Devil, under the condition that he would not bother Jack for one year and that, should Jack die, he would not claim his soul.

"The next year, Jack again tricked the Devil into climbing into a tree to pick a piece of fruit. While he was up in the tree, Jack carved a sign of the cross into the tree's bark so that the Devil could not come down until the Devil promised Jack not to bother him for ten more years.

"Soon after, Jack died. As the legend goes, God would not allow such an unsavory figure into heaven. The Devil, upset by the trick Jack had played on him and keeping his word not to claim his soul, would not allow Jack into hell. He sent Jack off into the dark night with only a burning coal to light his way. Jack put the coal into a carved-out turnip and has been roaming the Earth with ever since. The Irish began to refer to this ghostly figure as "Jack of the Lantern," and then, simply "Jack O'Lantern."

"In Ireland and Scotland, people began to make their own versions of Jack's lanterns by carving scary faces into turnips or potatoes and placing them into windows or near doors to frighten away Stingy Jack and other wandering evil spirits. In England, large beets are used. Immigrants from these countries brought the jack o'lantern tradition with them when they came to the United States."

Want a really scary Jack O' Lantern this year? Check this out:

You can find a pattern by clicking here.

Local Pumpkins Patches

This promises to be a perfect weekend for picking pumpkins. Here's a list of pumpkin patches in the front range area:

Adams County

Berry Patch Farms - Brighton

Crazed Corn Field Maze and Colorado Pumpkin Patch- Thornton
303-913-5947 (Hotline)

Hill's Harvest – Thornton

May Farms Corn Maze & Pumpkin Patch – Byers

Mazzotti Farms – Hudson

Palombo Farms Market Pumpkin Patch & Corn Maze - Henderson
303- 287-0134

Strasburg Farmers' Market

Boulder County

Burch Maze - Longmont

Cottonwood Farm – Boulder

Munson Farms - Boulder

Rock Creek Farm U-Pick-em Pumpkin Patch - Broomfield.

Rocky Mountain Pumpkin Ranch – Longmont

Arapahoe County

Bellflower Farms – Littleton

May Farms Event Center – Byers

Broomfield County

Rock Creek Farm - Broomfield
303- 465-9565

Elbert County

Coastalfields Pumpkin Patch - Agate
720- 207-3642

Fremont County

Diana's Pumpkin Patch & Corn Maze – Canon City

Ferrara's Happy Apple Farm - Penrose

Third Street Apples - Penrose
719- 372-6283
Larimer County

Harvest Farm – Wellington

Pope Farms Produce & Pumpkin Patch - Loveland

The Pumpkin Patch – Fort Collins
970-493-3853 (call first)

Something From the Farm – Fort Collins

Pueblo County

Pantaleo Farms & Produce - Pueblo
719-948-4556 (call first) or

Weld County

Anderson Farms - Erie

Fritzler’s Pumpkin Patch – La Salle

Miller Farms Corn Maze – Platteville
970-785-6133 or 970-785-2681

Tigges Farms - Greeley

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