HELLO THERE, PUMPKIN!

We enjoy growing it in our gardens and for lawn ornamentation because it’s so very easy to grow, requiring little more than a regular thorough watering. (The neighbors like it because they don’t have to squint to see just how BIG those pumpkins can get!)

Brilliant orange in color with varying textures and hues, we decorate our homes and lawns with them to usher in the Fall season, and to celebrate the bounty of Harvest Time. Halloween wouldn’t be the same without pumpkins to greet the Trick or Treaters at every door.

Without the Irish, pumpkin carving may never have become a tradition here. Perhaps an Irishman named Ronald McManus introduced it here after he realized that the original Irish tradition of carving a turnip was extremely challenging. He found the colorful pumpkin was not only easier to carve and more plentiful, but larger, as well. Thanks Macky!

Think pumpkins are vegetables? They are members of the squash family, which includes squash, gerkins, melons, gourds and cucumbers. Believe it or not, these Cucurbitaccaes are a part of the Fruit Family! A healthy food, pumpkins contain potassium and Vitamin A; no fat or sugar.

Originally grown in Central America, today pumpkins grow on six of the seven continents — it’s just too cold in Antarctica, but Alaskan natives successfully grown them and incorporate them into their diets.

Illinois is the epicenter of pumpkin growing, with Morton, Illinois being the undisputed Pumpkin Capital of the world. It is also home to the largest pumpkin cannery in the industry. Eighty percent of the pumpkins we grow are harvested in the month of October.

The largest pumpkin officially weighed 1,340 pounds, and like all pumpkins, was 90 percent water. Pumpkin flesh, seeds and even the flowers are edible. Colonists used pumpkins as both cooking and serving vessels. They “baked” the first pumpkin pie by removing the seeds and adding milk, honey and spices before roasting it in hot ashes. Originally, pumpkin was used as a crust ingredient in their pies, not as the filling.

The largest pumpkin pie on record weighed over 350 pounds and was more than five feet in diameter. It took six hours to bake, but not nearly that long to eat! Early colonists and Native Americans used seeds for medicine, and thought rubbing thepulp on the skin would both fade freckles and cure snake bites. Don’t know about that, but we know pumpkins cure hunger!

This Month’s Heavenly Selection From Your Favorite Chocolate of The Month Club:

“ORANGE &PUMPKIN MIX”

CENTER PIECES ARE ORANGE SLICES

ONE-HALF IN DARK CHOCOLATE,

ONE-HALF IN MILK  CHOCOLATE

OUTER PIECES ARE DARK CHOCOLATE WITH

PUMPKIN SPICE MIDDLE AND MILK CHOCOLATE

WITH A CRANBERRY CREAM MIDDLE

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