Pumpkin season is here - for the 5,000th time
There is probably no other fruit or vegetable that is associated with holidays like the pumpkin.
Americans carve them for Jack-O-Lanterns at Halloween, use them to make pies at Thanksgiving and carry on using them into the winter holiday season for various kinds of dishes such as pumpkin bread.
Even fast food outlets get into the spirit of the fall by having "pumpkin shakes" on their menu for a couple of months.
But really, what are pumpkins and where to they come from?
First of all pumpkins are a member of the gourd family. That family includes cucumbers, honeydew melons, cantaloupe, watermelons and zucchini.
They originated in Central America and Mexico, but now are grown around the world. In the area they came from they have been grown for over 5,000 years.
The name pumpkin did not come from the natives that grew them for so many millennia, however.
The story goes that in 1584, after French explorer Jacques Cartier explored the St. Lawrence region of North America, he reported finding "gros melons." The name was translated into English as "pompions," which has since evolved into the modern "pumpkin."
Pumpkins are ubiquitous in gardens almost everywhere. They are also very sensitive to temperature, particularly when they are first planted. They need to be planted in May so they can mature properly by the fall, and that can make for a touchy growth period at the beginning especially if there is a cold spring hanging on. Many people prefer to buy plants rather than grow them from seeds; this allows for a little later planting date. The orange gourds take between 90 and 120 days to grow and are usually harvested in late September and into October.
Plain pumpkins are low in calories, fat, and sodium and high in fiber. They have lots of Vitamin A, Vitamin B, potassium, protein, and iron.
However what is added to them can change those values.
Unlike many of the engineered garden plants we see today, the seeds from pumpkins can be used to grow more the next year.