Sunday, October 19, 2008

Apple #347: Pumpkins

Hey, it's Fall.

(Photo from Cooking from the Market, which has a recipe for pumpkin soup)

  • Pumpkins are a fruit.
  1. The seeds are within the part you eat, which makes pumpkins, like all of its squash cousins, a fruit.
  • They are also 90% water.
  • The largest pumpkins get to be around 1,000 pounds.

There is actually a club for people who have grown pumpkins that weigh over 1,100 pounds. It's called the called the 1100 Club. This guy, Larry Checkon from North Cambria, PA, is a member and also a former world record-holder, with his pumpkin which weighed 1,469 pounds.
(Photo from the Pumpkin Nook)

  • A ripe pumpkin will have a hard shell that won't dent or scratch easily when you press your thumbnail to it.
  • Also, don't choose a pumpkin with any soft spots, cracks, splits, or bug holes.
  • Pumpkins originated in Central America, but they can be grown just about anywhere in the world. Antarctica is the only continent where people haven't been able to grow them.
  • In colonial times, when people used pumpkin in their pies, they baked it into the crust.
  • The colonial ancestor of the pumpkin pie was a roasted pumpkin:
  1. Cut off the top
  2. Scoop out the innards & the seeds
  3. Fill it up with milk, spices, and honey
  4. Bake the squash in hot ashes

Paula Deen's pumpkin pie
(Photo from the Food Network)

  • 90% of the pumpkins grown in the United States are grown within a 90-mile radius of Peoria, Illinois.

The University of Illinois is in Champaign. All the pumpkins are in nearby Peoria. Barack Obama's house is in Chicago.
(Map from Joel Ward's real estate seminars)

  • Connecticut Field is the variety of pumpkin that people most commonly use for carving.
  • People have carved pumpkins for centuries.

This drawing called "The Pumpkin Effigy" appeared in The Ladies Floral Cabinet in September 1875.
(Photo from Inspiration Line)

  • The phrase "Jack o' Lantern" refers to an Irish legend about a guy named Stingy Jack and the Devil:
  1. The Devil heard about Stingy Jack, so he invited Stingy Jack to have a drink with him. But Stingy Jack, being stingy as well as being a drunk, didn't want to pay for it. The wily Devil, thinking had Jack right where he wanted him, said he'd turn himself into a coin that Jack could use to pay for the drink. Stingy Jack agreed. Except then he put the Devil-coin into his pocket where he also had a silver cross, which prevented the Devil from changing back into his fully Devilish self.
  2. Once the Devil cried Uncle, essentially, Jack said he'd let him out of his pocket only if the Devil agreed not to bother him again for a whole year. During that time, if Jack should die, the Devil wouldn't get to have his soul. Sick of being a coin, the Devil agreed and once he was back to his old self, let Stingy Jack alone.
  3. A year later, the Devil came back. He told Jack he'd come to collect. Stingy Jack said he'd go with the Devil, but first, would the he climb up that tree and get Jack an apple? The Devil thought he'd already gotten Jack to agree to go with him, so he climbed up the tree. While he was up there, Jack put crosses all around the tree, which kept the Devil from climbing back down again.
  4. Once again, the Devil yelped for help. Jack said he'd let him out of the tree if the Devil agreed never to take his soul. The Devil agreed and Jack let him go.
  5. Finally, Stingy Jack died. But because he'd been a stingy drunk and a liar as well, he wasn't allowed into Heaven. So he got sent down to Hell, but when he got there, the Devil wouldn't let him in. Not only was the Devil still mad at him, but he'd given his word that he wouldn't take Jack's soul.
  6. So the Devil kicked him back up to Earth and gave him nothing but a burning ember to light his way. Stingy Jack put the coal into a carved-out turnip and carried it like a lantern, and he roams the earth this way to this day. So he became known as Jack of the Lantern, or Jack O'Lantern for short.
  • By the way, people in Ireland and Scotland used to carve faces into turnips and beets and then light them with candles. This was to frighten away Stingy Jack and any other unsavory spirits who might be wandering about. When the Irish immigrants got to North America, they discovered that pumpkins worked really well for the purpose of making Jack O'Lanterns, and that's how we got pumpkin carving.

Since the idea of the Jack O'Lantern is to scare off Stingy Jack who was kind of a rotten guy, I wonder which would work better, a happy face or a scary face.
(Photo from Wikimedia Commons)
  • Before Halloween, there was the Celtic harvest feast of Samhain (pronounced sow-ane). It started at sunset October 31 and lasted until sunset November 1. Its purpose was nothing spooky or devilish; it was simply a harvest feast. Samhain means "Summer's End."

It's a pumpkin extravaganza at The Pumpkin Show in Circleville, Ohio. The 2008 Pumpkin Show was this past weekend, but you can go again in 2009, on October 21-24. They have a largest pumpkin contest, a Miss Pumpkin pageant, a carnival at night, and not just one parade, but several.
(Photo from the Circleville Pumpkin Show)

University of Illinois Extension, Pumpkin Facts,
History Channel, The Real Story of Halloween
Penumbra, The Story of Stingy Jack
The Pumpkin Patch
The Pumpkin Nook


  1. Nice, subtle inserted presidential candidate fact! Pumpkin/Apple Lady, you crack me up.

  2. Oh...
    60 fourth graders + field trip to the Circleville Pumpkin Show = one SCARY, long hour and 40 minutes.
    Thank goodness the second half of our day was spent hiking Slate Run - a much better place for the 4th graders AND their teachers.


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