I love pumpkins and gourds. In fact, I have an annual autumn obsession with pumpkins. I adore all their colors from traditional orange to blue, gray and green and white to pink, beige and red. I admire all their extraordinary textures – smooth, bumpy, warty, and deeply ribbed. Perfectly round or flattened, miniature or majestic, I love them all.
What is the difference between pumpkins, squash and gourds? Does it matter? It doesn’t matter to me but if it does to you, they all belong to the Cucurbita family. Pumpkins are really squash. Summer squash, including types like pattypan and zucchini, have tender skin and moist flesh. Winter squash, including banana, cushaw and hubbard varieties, have hard skin and dry flesh. Gourds are defined as hard-skinned fleshy members of the Cucurbita family.
Some folks differentiate them by the way they use them. Pumpkins are for carving, squash are for cooking, and gourds are for decorating. A Cucurbita enthusiast, I like to decorate with them all.
Here are some interesting things you may not know about pumpkins:
- The heaviest pumpkin on record weighed 1,818 pounds 5 ounces. It was exhibited on October 15, 2011 at Prince Edward County Pumpkinfest in Wellington, Ontario.
- Archeologists believe the earliest pumpkins were a crooked neck variety, not the traditional round orange types most popular today, cultivated along creeks and rivers with sunflowers and beans.
- Pumpkins are 90% water.
- Follow the history of the name pumpkin. Pepon is the Greek word for large melon. The French transformed pepon to pompon. The English changed pompon to pumpion. Americans converted pumpion to pumpkin.
- Scott Cully of the United States carved the largest jack-o-lantern from a pumpkin weighing 1,810 pounds 8 ounces in October of 2010.
- Pumpkins are grown on every continent except Antarctica. Countries that grow the most pumpkins include the U.S., Canada, Mexico, India and China.
- 1.5 billion pounds of pumpkins are grown in the U.S. every year. Illinois grows 95% of them for processing. Libby’s produces 85% of processed pumpkin in the U.S. in Morton, Illinois. It’s a good bet when you purchase canned pumpkin it came from Morton, Illinois.
- The top ten pumpkin-producing counties in Illinois are Tazewell, Kankakee, Mason, Logan, Will, Marshall, Kane, Pike, Carroll and Woodford.
- Pumpkins are good for you. They are sources of Vitamins A and B, iron, potassium and protein. They are low in calories, fat, and sodium but high in fiber.
- Pumpkins are one of the Three Sisters. Native Americans planted squash, corn and beans together. Beans grew up the cornstalks. The roots of beans set nitrogen in the soil to feed the corn. Squash plants shaded the ground preserving moisture and reducing weeds.
- More than 50 million pumpkin pies are consumed every year.
- Pilgrims made pumpkin beer – a fermented combination of hops, maple sugar, persimmons and pumpkin.
Catch a case of pumpkin fever. Capture the essence of autumn by including pumpkins in fall recipes and in seasonal decorating inside and out. Garden with me!