Carving pumpkins into Jack-O-Laterns is a Halloween tradition that originated hundreds of years ago in Ireland. Back then they used turnips or potatoes, and it wasn't until Irish immigrants arrived in America and discovered the pumpkin that a new Halloween ritual was born. Now they are the orange fruit of October for the fall holidays of Halloween and Thanksgiving. This nutritious and versatile plant features flowers, seeds and flesh that are edible and rich in vitamins. Pumpkins are used to make soups, desserts, breads, pies, and more.
Fun Pumpkin Facts
- Pumpkins are a member of the gourd/squash family, which includes cucumbers, honeydew melons, cantaloupe, watermelons and zucchini. These plants are native to Central America and Mexico, but now grow on six continents.
- The largest pumpkin pie ever baked was in 2010 and weighed 3,699 pounds.
- Pumpkins have been grown in North America for five thousand years. They are indigenous to the western hemisphere.
- Pumpkins are low in calories, fat, and sodium and high in fiber. They are good sources of Vitamin A, Vitamin B, potassium, protein and iron.
- The heaviest pumpkin weighed in at 2,009 pounds at the Topsfield Fair in Topsfield, MA and was grown and presented by Ron Wallace from Greene, RI.
- In 1584, a 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".
- Pumpkin seeds should be planted between the last week of May and the middle of June. They take between 90 and 120 days to grow and are picked in October when they are bright orange in color. Their seeds can be saved to grow new pumpkins the next year.
Or Jack-O-Lanterns were grown for this purpose. They have stiff walls, fibrous flesh that can stand up to being carved, and hollow cavities perfect for holding candles. There are several varieties that can also be carved. The Lumina is also fun to carve, the interior flesh is orange. When a candle is placed inside it gives off an eerie glow through its ghostly white skin.
Keeping Your Carved Pumpkin Looking Fresh
- After you have carved your pumpkin, dip your finger tips in petroleum jelly or vegetable oil to coat the edges of your Jack-O-Lantern. If the design is intricate, use a cotton swab.
- Keep your carved pumpkin out of direct sunlight.
- Cover your pumpkin with a wet towel during the day.
- Keep it in a cool place during the day, such as a cool basement or cool garage.
- Place it in a bucket of water overnight.
- Add a teaspoon of bleach to a bucket of water and dip your pumpkin in it to inhibit mild growth, be careful you do not get it on your clothes!
- Spray your pumpkin with clear acrylic or hair spray, only if you do not intend to eat your pumpkin afterwards!
Cinderella Pumpkins are a unique French heirloom. The source of their nickname is they resemble the pumpkin that Cinderella's fairy godmother transformed into a carriage. This pumpkin is recorded as possibly being the variety cultivated by the Pilgrims, and served at the second Thanksgiving dinner. This is our favorite pumpkin variety. There is something magical about them. Cinderella pumpkins make a wonderful decorative accent for a fall decoration, but they also have good flavor for a pie or squash recipe.
Knuckleheads are orange with warts. These unusual looking pumpkins average 12" high and 10" wide and weigh about 12 to 16 lbs. The warts appear green and change color after the background. It has a hard outer shell which makes it suitable for storage. Makes a great fall display. Can be carved, although skin is very tough.
Smooth and pure ghostly white on the outside, all fine grained orange flesh on the inside. This is a novelty pumpkin and is perfect for carving, painting, and decorating. It is a mid-sized pumpkin at 8-10 inches tall and weighs about 12 lbs. These pumpkins have become more and more popular over the years. This also has great flavor and texture for baking.
These are gourds. But a lot of people call them mini pumpkins. Kids like to paint them because of their size. They are mainly used for fall decorating. When kept out of direct sunlight or in a cool area they should last for months. To also help preserve them, wash them when you get home, then spray with a clear acrylic. Not edible.
There are several varieties of pie pumpkins grown for eating rather than decorative purposes. Pie pumpkins are smaller and more dense than decorative pumpkins. Recipes calling for pie pumpkins may use canned or fresh pie pumpkins, but should never have decorated pumpkins used as a substitue. The flesh on large (Jack-O-Lanterns or carving pumpkins) is usually watery and very bland and tasteless. Pie pumpkins are small and dense and usually have a medium or dark orange color.