Originally posted September 2007.
Normally we fill this space with reviews of snazzy products that keep small spaces, budgets, and multitasking usefulness in mind. But considering the upcoming holidays, we figured we’d go a little organic and devote this issue’s column to pumpkins.
Pumpkins grow all over the world, except for Antarctica, so everyone probably knows what a pumpkin looks like. But maybe you don’t know that, technically, the pumpkin is a fruit and is considered a native American crop probably originating in Central America. The pumpkin is segregated into four species in the Curcurbita genus, the Pepo, the Maxima, the Mixta, and the Moschata. It’s related to other squash like the butternut and zucchini.
American Indians have been using the pumpkin for food and household uses for centuries. Pumpkins are high in beta-carotene (Vitamin A), a good source of potassium and high in fiber. You can eat almost the entire thing and pumpkin dishes include pies, cookies, biscuits, breads, mashed, soups, and roasted seeds. My personal favorite is the Harvest Pumpkin Soup at Au Bon Pain. It’s so popular that you have to get to the store before noon or there won’t be any left.
We love carving pumpkins! Last year we splurged and got several. The biggest one was reserved for a masterpiece while the remaining smaller ones got simple faces. Now that we have a stoop, we hope to get a whole collection to put in front of the house. We have a debate about carving them or not since there is always the chance that unruly teenagers might abduct them or possibly launch your pumpkins through your window. We think perhaps a carved pumpkin might cause less damage. If you do carve, I find that a good steak knife will suffice for simple faces. If you want to take your creation to another level, it’s definitely worth investing in a carving kit. Implements with wooden handles will last longer but the inexpensive plastic tools have worked for us just fine. If you want to think outside the box, or gourd, you can go to your local hardware store. Woodworking tools work well as pumpkin carvers. Beyond just carving, you can paint them or add other materials to get
a really unique work of art.
The following sites have some really great pictures of carved pumpkins. Seeing what others have done is a great starting point.
A traditional pumpkin event, popular at many country fairs, is the largest pumpkin contest. I recently watched coverage of a nearby Pennsylvania contest. The grand winner almost weighed as much as my first car. The current world record holder was over 1,500 pounds. I can’t imagine how much pie that would make. The pumpkin has amazing diversity because the smallest types of pumpkins are just the size of baseballs. Not all pumpkins are orange either. Some types range in color from green and blue to red.
Additionally, today’s pumpkin goes beyond art and culinary into the world of physics. Every year there are contests to see who can build the most effective pumpkin catapulting device. Called “punkin-chunkin,” events draw big crowds and get televised coverage. The idea is to launch a pumpkin the farthest using basic mechanical means. There are several types of contests depending on type of device or size of pumpkin to be tossed but in most cases you can’t use an engine driven system. Participants plan all year long as the competition is fierce.