Fall Harvest Pumpkins

Article for the Week of October 28, 2006

pumpkin fieldWhat’s fall without orange pumpkins stacked for sale in church lots and appearing on front door steps and in other decorative spots? Pumpkins begin to appear in October to herald the fact that Halloween is on the way, and the decor is appropriate right into Thanksgiving. Here are a few facts, figures, and myths about the pumpkin.

Pumpkins come in a variety of colors-orange, of course. But did you know they also have skins of white, green, blue, red, and tan? Most pumpkins grown commercially for food products are tan.

Pumpkins are believed to be indigenous to Central America, dating back 7,000 years to 5500 BC. Native Americans used the pumpkin as a diet staple but also wove strips of the skin into mats. Early Pilgrims also adapted the pumpkin quickly and took it back to Europe, where its popularity spread rapidly. But the custom of the jack-o-lantern comes from Ireland, with the legend–“Jack Stingy who was too mean to get into heaven and played too many tricks on the devil to go to hell. When he died, he had to walk the earth, carrying a lantern made out of a turnip with a burning coal.”

Some classify the pumpkin botanically as a fruit, as it grows from a flower. Others consider it a vegetable. Depending on the source of information, it may be related to a squash or a cucumber. As a food, it is rich in vitamin A, potassium, and fiber. How many parts of the pumpkin can you identify? There are the stem, tendril, leaves, skin, pulp, ribs, blossom end, brains (also called goop, slime, and yucky stuff), seeds, seed coat, and the nut.

pumpkin clipartThe largest pumpkin recorded to date occurred in Pennsylvania in 2005. It weighed 1469 pounds. That pumpkin probably made a lot of pies!

These are just a few facts to pique your interest in pumpkins. Now is not the right time to plant your own personal pumpkin patch, but next summer is not that far away.

Plenty of instructions on growing pumpkins are posted on the Internet, along with pictures of those odd-colored pumpkins, giant pumpkins, the legend of the jack-o-lantern, plus plenty of recipes for you chefs. Fun stuff!

For more general information:
http://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu./extension/newsletters/hortupdate/julaug01/art9jul.html

For more knowledge and just plain fun:
http://www.urbanext.uiuc.edu/pumpkins (University of Illinois); http://www.pumpkinnook.com

For pictures of the unusual colors, visit: http://www.sadako.com/pumpkins/growing.html

Or you can just Google on “growing pumpkins” and “pumpkins” for a few million other websites. Special Thanks to Jack Stutts-Bexar County Master Gardener with this article.

Remember, Learn, Have Fun and Stay Warm!

David Rodriguez is the County Extension Agent-Horticulture for Bexar County. He represents Texas Cooperative Extension with the Texas A&M University System. For any landscape or gardening information, call the Bexar County Master Gardeners Hotline at (210) 467-6575, E-mail questions to mg-bexar@tamu.edu, or visit our County Extension website at https://bexar-tx.tamu.edu/.

Special Note: Listen to live broadcast of the Home & Garden Show with David Rodriguez & Bill Rohde on WOAI 1200 AM, every Saturday morning between 8:00-11:00 a.m., and call in your gardening questions at (210) 737-1200 or 1-800-383-9624. Check it out!

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