Peter isn’t the only pumpkin-eater around, but he must have eaten at least one very large one in order to keep his wife in the shell. Why she would put up with such a home, I cannot answer. Nonetheless, Peters worldwide are in luck. Antarctica is the only continent that cannot grow pumpkins. This member of the Cucurbitaceae is believed to have originated in Mexico where they left evidential seeds dating to about 7,000 BC. Various colonizers brought it back to Europe, but the name is derived from the Greek pepon for large melon. The French picked it up as pomou and passed it to the British who heard it as pumpion. That name traveled with colonists back to the Western Hemisphere where it outflanked all linguistic odds to become pumpkin.
While pumpkin lore abounds, I am sorry to tell you that the elegant white pumpkin coach of Cinderella fame is not included in the earlier French and German versions of the tale and appear to be straight out of Disney World. Another pumpkin tale must be told of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. In this story all that remained of Ichabod Crane after being chase by a headless horseman was Crane’s horse, his hat and a shattered pumpkin. That shattered pumpkin has spawned many a secondary tall tale on its own.
Though they are most commonly known in the orange form, pumpkins actually come in dark green, pale green, white, red and grey. The most traditional American pumpkin is the Connecticut Field variety. Heirloom to field to table to lantern, there is an extraordinary and cheerful range of size, shape and color. There is a gnarly entry that looks like the outside of a peanut shell, appropriately dubbed a peanut pumpkin. Venture into the farmers’ market and choose what delights you most. Pumpkins opens the holiday season with the coming of Halloween and stay for the remainder of the year to put smiles on our faces and something delicious in our mouths.
Maybe it’s the pumpkin’s rotund and jolly appearance that is responsible for the fun, festivals and contests they inspire. Pumpkins are the stuff of children’s imagination, fairy-tale coaches, bizarre homes and great goblin faces. Lucky us. There are annual Pumpkin Queens distributed across the U.S.. In 2006, Boston set the record for having the most jack o’ lanterns with 30,128 on display. There is a pumpkin festival that has been held in Circleville, Ohio every year since 1903 with a single three-year wartime exception. The world record holder for the largest pumpkin was set in 2016 by Mathais Willemijns of Belgium for his 2,624.6 pound entry. It has yet to be topped.
As for its culinary properties, the first colonists lopped off the top of the pumpkin; scooped out the stringy insides and seeds; then filled it with milk, honey and spices. They set the filled pumpkin in the coals of their fireplace to bake. That must be the great, great grandmother of all pumpkin pies. The Japanese use pumpkin to make tempura; the Italians stuff ravioli with it; the Thai make individual servings of pumpkin custard in very small pumpkins; and in Mexico and the southwestern U.S., pumpkin flowers are battered and fried. There are many pumpkin recipes on our website, not least of which are: Stuffed Pumpkin, Pumpkin Bundt Cake, Pork and Pumpkin Stew, Pumpkin Whoopie Pies, Pumpkin Sage Risotto and naturally several pies. Today we offering a Creamy Pumpkin and Leek Soup. It can be made the day before and gently warmed before serving.