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Front Page » November 24, 2011 » Holiday focus » The universal holiday fruit
Published 1,029 days ago

The universal holiday fruit


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By RICHARD SHAW
Sun Advocate publisher

Call it what you will, but the pumpkin is the universal holiday fruit.

A fruit you say? Isn't it a vegetable.

Well technically no it isn't a vegetable. The reason is the gooey stuff inside that covers all those seeds (and your hands) when you carve one at Halloween. That stuff is called endosperm and that officially makes it a fruit.

What does endosperm actually do? It might protect and nourish the seeds, an important job. And it might make the fruit more attractive to animals, who, in eating the fruit, help spread the seeds around. But is is a fruit nonetheless.

However people will argue with you about that, so just consider it a holiday staple.

Pumpkins are in vogue in one form or another from Halloween right up through New Years. They change form, but they are popular. At Halloween (in fact throughout the fall) they are used for decorations around homes and businesses. That trend continues through Thanksgiving by which time most of the ones that have been setting on the steps outside are beginning to cave in from rot. But the thankful holiday saves them in another form; pumpkin pie, the dessert staple of many a holiday feast.

So for another month pumpkins keep their top of mind status in the kitchen as the November dinner turns into Christmas and New Years feasts. But pie isn't all there is. The venerable fruit becomes pumpkin bread, pumpkin chocolate chip cookies or many other assorted uses of the oranage orb. People also make the meat of the pumpkin into soups and stews. Pumpkin puree can replace the oil in cake recipes much in the same way applesauce can. Actually adding pumpkin to recipes provides a healthy way to increase nutritional value.

Pumpkins are a member of the squash family that grow on long vines close to the ground. Before pumpkin fruit grows, brightly colored flowers form and then those blossoms turn into pumpkins. Pumpkins adapt to many climates and are grown on all of the continents of the world except Antarctica.

In colonial times, settlers and natives alike relied on pumpkin as a staple of their diets. The British saw the possibilities of pumpkins as a food source and brought seeds back to Europe to enjoy as well.

Pumpkins are comprised of several parts. The pumpkin is covered in a skin that surrounds the pulp, or the meaty part of the pumpkin. The stem is at the top of the pumpkin and connects to the vine. Tendrils are thin pieces of vine that tether the pumpkin to the ground to protect it from the wind and weather. The inside of the pumpkin is known as the cavity and can contain seeds and fibrous strands. The bottom of the pumpkin is known as the blossom end because that's where the flower started before the pumpkin formed.

Most varieties of pumpkins are edible, but some taste better than others. Once when pumpkins turn orange they can be eaten.

There are many interesting pieces of trivia regarding pumpkins. Here are some things to ponder.

*Pumpkins were once believed to eliminate freckles and were also used as a remedy for snake bites.

*In 2007, people in Boston earned the world record for the most lit pumpkins with 30,128 twinkling jack-o-lanterns.

*Thousands of people participate in pumpkin chucking, an event where air cannons or catapults propel pumpkins thousands of feet. Each year people compete to see who can launch a pumpkin the farthest.

*On September 25, 2010, people in New Bremen, Ohio, broke their own record when they baked a 3,699 pound pumpkin, surpassing their prior record of 2,020 pounds.

So the next time you think of pumpkins, just don't think about Jack-O-Lanterns, think of is as nourishment, garnishment and entertainment all in one.

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