Eight Fun Facts About Pumpkins
8 Fun Facts about Pumpkins
If you visited our farm in the fall, you may have taken some time to pick your own pumpkin right out of the field! Our Hands on Harvest school tour groups also get the chance to pick a pumpkin and gain in-depth knowledge about these favorite fall-time decorations. You too can learn some fun facts about pumpkins—read on!
1. The scientific name for pumpkins is Cucurbita pepo, subs. pepo. The cucurbita genus also includes zucchini, various types of squash, and ornamental gourds. Some other types of winter squash in the cucurbita genus are often mistaken for pumpkins and labelled as such, due to their appearance.
2. Commercially canned pumpkin and pumpkin spice filling are usually made from other types of winter squash (such as butternut squash), not traditional “jack-o-lantern” pumpkins.
3. The word “pumpkin” originates from the Greek word “pepon” (?????), meaning “large melon” or something big and round. The French turned this Greek word into “pompon,” which the Brits changed to “pumpion,” and which the American colonists turned into “pumpkin.”
4. Pumpkins grow both male and female flowers on the same vine, easily distinguishable by the round bulb below the female flower which will eventually grow into the pumpkin. The male flowers appear first, blooming early in order to attract bees for pollination. The female flower may only be open for a single day, and if the bees don’t fertilize her with pollen from the male flower, then she will wither and die without producing any fruit.
5. The heaviest pumpkin on record weighs a whopping 2,624.6 pounds—that’s more than a ton! It was grown in Belgium in 2016.
6. Many bakers swear by Libby’s canned pumpkin when it comes to making pumpkin pie. Libby’s is owned by Nestlé, and accounts for 85% of the processed pumpkin that is used each year around Thanksgiving. The pumpkins are primarily grown on farms in Morton, Illinois, and in 2009 after a very rainy fall, Nestlé found itself in the midst of a pumpkin shortage that affected the whole country come Thanksgiving season.
7. The tradition of carving a jack-o-lantern is said to come from an Irish legend called “Stingy Jack”. The Irish and Scottish originally carved turnips, as is done in the story, but early immigrants to North America carved pumpkins since they were more readily available (and also easier to carve). Carving pumpkins was originally part of the Thanksgiving season—as a way to bring the family together in a fun activity—and only became associated with Halloween in the late 1800s.
8. References to pumpkins in popular culture include The Great Pumpkin from the Peanuts comic strip, Jack Pumpkinhead from L. Frank Baum’s The Wizard of Oz book series, Jack Skellington, the “Pumpkin King” from Tim Burton’s Nightmare Before Christmas, the pumpkin turned into a carriage by Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother, and the “pumpkin bombs” thrown by the Green Goblin and Hobgoblin (enemies of Spider Man).