Friday, October 16, 2015

Pumpkins and Pompions

As usual, October is moving through mighty quick! Yesterday marked the half-way point toward the end of the month. Here in Utah, the weather is not too cold yet. However, it is still pretty nippy sometimes in the mornings. I can't wait till the hot days are officially over.

Days Till
It is: 15 days till Harvest Day
It is: 40 days till The Good Dinosaur's release
It is: 41 days till Thanksgiving
It is: 70 days till Christmas

In the Spotlight
Unfortunately, I really have nothing interesting to share this week.

Topic of the Week by Christian Ryan
Boy, do we have pumpkins or what? (Wikimedia Commons)
Fall is now upon us and that is a time we commonly shift our thoughts to a plant that produces large orange objects; yes, I'm talking about the pumpkin! Pumpkins are commonly grown, and carved into Jack-o-lantern's in October before being chopped up and made into pumpkin pie by Thanksgiving. We all know that, but if you continue to read, you may come across some things about the pumpkin you never knew before.

What is a pumpkin? If you said a vegetable, you're wrong – the pumpkin is actually a fruit, but more specifically, a berry. Pumpkin we typically associate with the word “pumpkin”, grow and consume derives from the species Cucurbita pepo. As they are in the family cucurbitaceae (which is Latin for “gourd”), they are close cousins of other squashes, gourds, melon (e.g. watermelon) and cucumbers. But these fruits didn't all evolve from a common ancestor (that is, progressively become more advanced through the process of evolution), rather, they all descended from the original member of the “gourd baramin” (or kind) God created on Day 3 of the creation week, in addition to the other plants He made. What sets pumpkins apart from other gourds is their round shape and lightly ribbed skin. Usually pumpkins are orange, but they also come in yellow, red, white or even green. They also come in a wide range of sizes, from the diminutive 6-pound ball and the average-sized 13-pounder, to the massive 2,323.7-pound monster presented by Beni Meier that broke records and claimed the title of world's heaviest pumpkin in Germany last year. Just imagine how much pumpkin pie that would have made!

Pumpkins can grow to be over a ton in weight, making them the world's biggest berry! Yes, pumpkins are berrys. (Wikimedia Commons)

Pumpkins are native to North America and were unknown to the Old World until Columbus. In fact, these orange fruits have been grown in Central America for thousands of years by the Native Americans. Pumpkins gained notice among Europeans starting In 1584 when the French Explorer Jacques Cartier was exploring North America's St. Lawrence region. The word pumpkin was derived from his own description of these large fruits, “gros melons”, which was translated into English as “pompions”. Overtime, “pompions” became pronounced as “pumpkins”.

This picture was made in 1874, but pumpkins have been loved by people for much longer than that! (Wikimedia Commons)
Ever since their discovery, pumpkins have revolutionized the world. As I mentioned before, pumpkins have a myriad of different uses. During the month of October, we like to carve them into jack-o-lantern's. Interestingly, these face-carved fruits get their name from an Irish legend featuring a man by the name of Stingy Jack who's mischief had disallowed him to enter Heaven after he died, but the Devil didn't want him in Hell either and was sent out into the night. So, according to the story, Stingy Jack put a burning coal into a carved out turnip and has forced to wonder the earth ever since. To keep Stingy Jack at bay, people in olde Ireland and Scotland made their own versions of Jack's turnip lantern by carving scary faces into large turnips or sometimes potatoes. Eventually, this tradition was brought to America by the Irish, and pumpkins began to be used for carving instead.

Jack-o-lantern's were originally made out of turnips and potatoes!
Pumpkin pies are another common use for pumpkins nowadays, but this delicious dessert has been consumed for far longer than you might think. The Pilgrims were introduced to pumpkins by the Native Americans when they set sail for the New World in 1620 and it wasn't long before people began to use the fruit to make pies. Through much of the mid-1600's, chefs had many different ways to make pumpkin pie. According to the History Channel,
“A 1653 French cookbook instructed chefs to boil the pumpkin in milk and strain it before putting it in a crust. English writer Hannah Woolley's 1670 'Gentlewoman's Companion' advocated a pie filled with alternating layers of pumpkin and apple, spiced rosemary, sweet marjoram and handful of thyme. Sometimes a crust was unnecessary; an early New England recipe involved filling a hollowed-out pumpkin with spiced, sweetened milk and cooking it directly in a fire” – History Channel's The History of Pumpkin Pie

Who doesn't want a little pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving? (Wikimedia Commons)
Yes, pumpkin can be used in a variety of ways and fashions: in the kitchen, it is baked, roasted, steamed or boiled or even made into soups. Sometimes we chunk them – we throw pumpkins are hoisted onto mechanical devices designed to lunge the pumpkin as far away as possible, usually resulting in a huge splat! Sometimes we have contests to see who can grow the biggest pumpkins. Pumpkins have even made it into our folklore and fiction, from “Jack's Lantern” to the pumpkin Fairy Godmother turned into a carriage for Cinderella and the Great Pumpkin that Peanut's Linus van Pelt insists “rises out of the pumpkin patch and gives toys to all the good little children”.

A world without pumpkins would surely be very different place.

Enjoy your pumpkins this year!
Disclaimer: The images above are not my own unless otherwise indicated. If you own one of the above images and want it removed, please notify me via my email.


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