Given that the pumpkin, Cucurbita pepo (from the Greek pepon, meaning large melon), has delicious flesh and a delightful design, it’s become a squash icon and symbol of autumn.
It’s no wonder Peter dined with delight and Cinderella’s fairy godmother chose a pumpkin to conjure her creative carriage.
Pumpkins belong to the Cucurbitaceae family, along with squashes, muskmelons, watermelons and gourds. While pumpkins are classified as winter squashes, not all squash are pumpkins.
Pumpkins are actually fruits, as they have seeds that develop from mature ovaries of the plant’s blossoms. Their versatility has given them great value since their cultivation.
Despite somewhat unclear origins, the earliest records of domesticated seed remnants and consumption date back to approximately 8750 BC and 7000 BC in Oaxaca, Mexico.
There’s also evidence of domestication in North America, (Missouri in 4000 BC and Mississippi in 1400 BC) and in Central America. Pumpkins were shipped to Europe and other parts in the world during the 16th century.
Pumpkins have a long culinary and medicinal history. Native Americans roasted and dried pumpkin strips to eat and store. American colonists originated “pumpkin pie” by removing seeds then filling pumpkin cavities with honey, milk, and spices and baking them in hot ashes. No pan to wash here! Seeds were also likely roasted by the Aztecs as high protein snacks.
The pulp and sap of pumpkins has long been used medicinally in North and Central America for burns. Another by-product, pumpkin seed oil, is usually mixed with other oils and used for cooking and salad dressings.
Their decorative contributions are many, including dried strips woven into mats by Native Americans, mini varieties for tabletop decor, and of course, Jack O’ Lanterns, a Celtic tradition started with smaller turnips, beets, and potatoes in Ireland. Arriving in America, the Irish readily carved pumpkins into lanterns for scaring off tortured souls (like Stingy Jack) on Halloween.
Pumpkins are high in iron, vitamin A, protein and fiber that support anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and antifungal properties.
Cooked flesh is found in pies and is delicious in soups, pasta, salads, desserts, preserves, candies, beverages, (beer and hot spiced cider) or roasted and dried. Cook edible leaves like any greens, stuff and fry flowers and roast seeds (pepitas).
Pumpkins come in a multitude of colors, shapes and sizes besides the classic rich orange ribbed rounds – from petite decorative pumpkins to gigantic monsters (largest ever recorded – 2,323 pounds!). Typically though, most grow to 20-40 pounds, and field pumpkins can reach up to 65 pounds.
Planting pumpkins is easy. Start seeds inside or outside in good potting soil or well amended garden soil, sowing seeds 1” deep. Sow 3-4 seeds about 10-14 days before last frost in 4” pots inside and the same depth outside in 5” high flattened mounds that warm more quickly than flat soil.
Keep all consistently moist and indoor seeds at 70-75°F. Once sprouted (in about 5-8 days), acclimate inside seedlings a week before planting outside.
Provide generous amounts of rotted compost for nutrients and mulch. Supplement with balanced organic fertilizer and plenty of horizontal (or vertical) space.
Whether planted for pies or for that giant first prize, the mighty pumpkin never disappoints!
Armand’s Harper Valley Farms
Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds
Pinetree Garden Seeds
Preheat oven to 400°F.
Cut a piece of parchment paper to cover a cookie sheet.
2 cups white whole wheat or oat flour
1 cup regular organic rolled oats (not quick or instant)
¼ teaspoon sea salt
1/3 cup organic coconut sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
½ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
1 tablespoon fresh grated ginger root
½ cup chopped toasted walnuts (almonds, pecans or filberts), optional
¼ cup olive oil
2/3 cup pureed pumpkin
½ cup buttermilk
extra buttermilk and organic coconut sugar (for topping)
Mix together flour, oats, sea salt, sugar, ground spices and grated ginger. Pour in olive oil and blend until mixture is crumbly. Mix in nuts. Pour in pumpkin and buttermilk, then mix with a wooden spoon or clean hands just until mixture clings together, then gather into a ball. Transfer to parchment paper and flatten to an 8”-9” round. Score the round into 8 wedges with a sharp knife. Brush the top with a little buttermilk and sprinkle with some coconut sugar. Bake in preheated oven for about 15 minutes until top is golden. Serve warm or freeze for longer storage.