Autumn Pumpkin History and Facts

Discover How This All-American Fruit is Much More than Pumpkin Pie

Pumpkins are an icon of fall and the upcoming holidays, yet the history and important nutrition hidden in these vitamin-packed, healthy fruits is widely unknown.

History of the Pumpkin in the U.S.

Pumpkins are a staple item during the autumn months; from Jack-o-lanterns lining porches at Halloween, to pumpkin pie being served at holiday meals, pumpkins are everywhere. Pumpkins have been an important part of Thanksgiving dinners, since Thanksgiving first began. Yet, before the pilgrims arrived, pumpkins were also a staple in Native American diets. Native Americans used the pumpkins and seeds for food and medicinal purposes. The early settlers of America then brought pumpkin seeds back to England. Pumpkins are known as the first foods to travel from the “New World” and be adopted in Europe. The English word, pumpkin, dates back to before 1600. The pumpkin should be called the “All American” fruit because it has been a part of American history longer than any other fruit.

Pumpkin Nutrition

Pumpkins are fruit, even though when cooking, they are regarded as more of a vegetable than a fruit. Pumpkins are a member of the gourd family. Pumpkins are low in fat and sodium, and are considered an ancient, healthful “power food”. They are orange because they contain massive amounts of lutein, alpha and beta carotene, better known to your body as, Vitamin A. These antioxidants are powerful agents in preventing certain cancers. Pumpkins are also rich in potassium, fiber, Vitamin C, E, and K, and contain lots of minerals.

Pumpkin, especially their seeds, have been used historically to treat several ailments, including freckles and snake bites. More applicable to health concerns today, eating pumpkins seeds can help prevent prostate cancer in men, protect against heart disease and also have anti-inflammatory benefits.

To prepare pumpkin seeds, remove them from the pumpkin. Wipe off any pulp. Make a single layer of seeds, spread over a paper towel or paper bag. Let seeds dry overnight. Then spread them on a cookie sheet in a single layer. Roast them at a temperature of 160 degrees F for 15-20 minutes. Eat seeds alone or enjoy them on salads, or ground in recipes.

Real Pumpkin Pie

Pumpkin pie is perhaps the most well-known use of the pumpkin. Many Americans use pie filling mixes to make quick, sweet tasting pies for the holidays. However, pumpkin pie can easily be made from fresh pumpkins. Pie pumpkins are smaller than those used to make jack-o-lanterns, averaging about eight inches in diameter. The pulp can be removed, and the rest of the pumpkin baked. The baked pumpkin is then scraped and turned into the pie filling. This holiday season, remember how wonderful the pumpkin is, but also remember what other ingredients have been added to make it into that slice of heavenly pumpkin pie!

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