|Halloween Facts: All about Pumpkins|
This instant of year, its all about pumpkins. Carving them, decorating with them, and using them in recipes. Everyone does it as part of the Halloween tradition, but does anyone really understand
why? Lets take a look!
Carving jack-o-lanterns is a tradition that dates back to the Celtic tradition of Samhain, which was the night when dead souls came back to earth in search of bodies. The jack-o-lanterns, lit from within by burning lumps of coal, served to ward away evil spirits but welcome the spirits of loved ones. Jack-o-lanters we are
originally carved from gourds or even turnips, until the discovery of North American pumpkins. The pumpkin that we use today to carve jack-o-lanterns was indigenous to the western hemisphere. In 1584 a French explorer noted his discovery of "large melons" or "ponpions"--pumpkins. Pumpkins are now grown all over the world on six continents, except for Antarctica of course!
Pumpkins (fruits, not vegetables) are really very interesting when you get down to it. They are related to cucumbers, surprisingly enough, but they are orange because they contain large amounts of beta-carotene and lutein, which the body turns to vitamin A. They also contain potassium and fiber. Due to their nutritional content, they were a staple to the Native American diet. They later became a staple of the settlers as well. It is even said that pumpkins were present at the first Thanksgiving dinner.
We still eat pumpkins today. Who doesnt love roasting the seeds after a particularly productive carving session? And no Thanksgiving meal would be complete without pumpkin pie. But pumpkins may be a tasty addition to other recipes as well--in breads, ice creams, cheesecakes and even soups.
But the interesting facts about pumpkins doesnt stop at food. Pumpkins are 90% water and were first used as the crust of pie rather than the filling. Native Americans made mats with dried strips of the fruit, which they called "isqoutm squash," and also used the seeds for medicines. Some uses of pumpkins are said to have been cures for snake bites or freckles. The largest pumpkin recorded is over 1,000 lbs--thats a large pumpkin considering that the average pumpkin only weighs 3-4 pounds.
However you want to make use of
your pumpkin, either by carving it or eating it, you are sure to get your funs worth. Not only do they liven up your Halloween experience, they are a part of a long standing North American tradition that is centuries old!
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