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Pumpkins are ripe and plentiful in the fall, just in time for Halloween. These big orange fruits are used in many ways. You might bring one home from a pumpkin patch or the grocery store and carve it into a jack-o’-lantern. Pumpkin is nutritious and good to eat. Pumpkins can also be used for decoration. Some people even have pumpkin-tossing contests. The history of pumpkins and their use at Halloween contains a mixture of interesting facts and Celtic folklore. Find out how the pumpkin replaced the turnip in the Halloween story and discover more ways to use pumpkins.
History of the Halloween Pumpkin
Pumpkins, which are a type of squash, were first found in the Americas, primarily in the area of Central America and Mexico. Native Americans carried pumpkin seeds into other parts of North America. They cut pumpkins into long strips and roasted them over a fire. They also wove dried strips of pumpkin into mats. The Native Americans ate pumpkin seeds and also used them for medicine. Columbus took pumpkin seeds back to Europe, but they did not grow well there. Jacques Cartier, a French explorer, found pumpkins in what is now part of Canada in 1584. He called them “pepons,” a Greek word that means “large melons.” Over time, the name was changed to “pumpkin.” When the colonists arrived in the U.S., they began using pumpkins for food, too. It was the influence of Irish immigrants, however, that made the pumpkin a part of Halloween.
Facts About Pumpkin
Not all pumpkins are orange. Some varieties yield white, tan, yellow, or even blue produce. Pumpkins come in a wide range of sizes, too. Miniature pumpkins weighing less than two pounds might be used in table centerpieces. Giant varieties can weigh more than a thousand pounds. While the common jack-o’-lantern pumpkin is round, there are varieties that are flat and other that are bumpy. Columbus had difficulty raising his pumpkin seeds in Europe, but pumpkins are now grown on all of the continents except Antarctica. At one time, people believed that pumpkins could be used to remove freckles and heal snake bites. Some people also believed that pumpkin could cure diarrhea and constipation in dogs and cats. These medicinal claims have been debunked, but there remain plenty of good uses for the pumpkin.