Pumpkin: Hallmark of fall harvest

by | October 31, 2007 12:00 am

There’s no surer sign that autumn is upon us than to see pumpkins turning orange in the field or showing up at local roadside markets. The humble pumpkin has become the hallmark of the harvest season.

And why not? It’s native to our land. Benjamin Franklin could have trumpeted the pumpkin as our national vegetable just as easily as he did the turkey as our national bird.

Our history is rich with traditions relating to pumpkins. Native Americans used them as a staple in their diets. They roasted strips to eat and used dried strips of the fruit to weave into mats.

While pumpkin pie probably wasn’t part of the first Thanksgiving meal, the pilgrims did eat pumpkin. Most likely, it was more of a pudding sweetened with honey and flavored with spices.

Pumpkins are even prominent in literature. Remember Cinderella’s coach? How about Charles Schulz’s character Linus and his quest for the Great Pumpkin?

Today, you can choose from many variations on size and color. The traditional, basketball-sized, orange fruit is still out there. But neither size nor color is an obstacle anymore. While orange is still the norm, the market offers white, bluish-gray, buff or even red pumpkins, too.

A plethora of miniature types come in all colors, too, from orange to white to mixed.

If you want a behemoth on your block, pick from one of the giant varieties. Dill’s Atlantic Giant is the variety used in most competitive pumpkin growing. Finding these fruits from 300 to 600 pounds is not uncommon. The world record is around 1,200 pounds!

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