Pumpkins are the squashy stars of October! They appear in pumpkin patches, get served up for Thanksgiving desserts, and finally get carved into jack-o’-lanterns for Halloween. Pumpkins can do it all! Here are a few fun facts that you can dazzle everyone with as you sit down to carve up that pumpkin.
It's true. That’s because they contain seeds (lots of seeds!), but pumpkins are also part of the squash family, like zucchini and melons. Since they’re ripe in the autumn and early winter, they usually get called a winter squash.
The bright orange variety is the pumpkin we know best, but there are also white, yellow, red, green, and even striped varieties. Most pumpkins are smooth on the outside, but there are some that have bumps all over them. These warty pumpkins are bred to look that way to make for even weirder-looking jack-o’-lanterns and decorations.
Small pumpkins are usually for pies and decorations and big ones are for carving. Then there are the true pumpkin giants! Every year farmers compete to see who can grow the biggest pumpkin—taking their monster squash to fairs in flatbed trucks. The world record for pumpkins is just over 1000 kg, about the same weight as a full grown polar bear!
About 90% of a pumpkin is water, just like their plant cousins the watermelon. You can even make pumpkin juice!
They were thought to cure snakebites and get rid of freckles. Pumpkins do have lots of vitamins in them, both the seeds and the pulp. It definitely won’t fix a snakebite, but eating pumpkins can make you healthier.
The seeds can be roasted for a crunchy snack, and the flesh can be used for stews, soups, pies and pasta. Pumpkin flowers can be eaten too! And even the rinds can be baked into chips. (As far as we know, you can't use a pumpkin as a hamburger bun - but maybe one day!)
Because pumpkins are often grown for looks instead of taste, a close relative of the pumpkin, the Dickinson squash, is used instead. It’s thought to have a more pumpkin-y taste than the real thing. Sometimes other kinds of winter squash are blended in too, but no one seems to notice once it’s in pie form.
Carving jack-o’-lanterns started in Ireland hundreds of years ago with stories of a wandering spirit named Stingy Jack. People would carve turnips or potatoes with scary faces and put them in the windows to keep Stingy Jack and other spooky creatures away on Halloween. When Irish people came to North America they brought the custom with them, but soon saw that it was much easier to carve a pumpkin than a turnip!