10 FUN FACTS ABOUT PUMPKINS
Like summer squash, the winter squashes–among them pumpkins–are identified by botanists as a fruit and by cooks as a vegetable. Technically, pumpkins are fruit–fleshy vessels that hold the seeds of the plant.
For our purposes, though–since we’re focused more on food than science here (not that they aren’t very closely related!)–and because in their raw state, pumpkins are more savory than sweet, we’re calling them veggies.
Your kids will have fun with these interesting facts about pumpkins–especially knowing that with pumpkins ripening on the vine, the pumpkin-allied holidays of Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas can’t be far behind.
1. The name “pumpkin” comes from the French word “pampion,” meaning “sun-baked squash.” “Campion,” in turn, comes from the Greek word “pepon,” meaning “large melon.” The English modified “pampion” to “pompkin,” which the American colonists changed to “pumpkin.” Pepon to pumpkin–it’s not such a stretch over thousands of years, is it?
2. Native Americans called pumpkins “isqoutm squash.”
3. Historically, the Irish didn’t carve pumpkins for Halloween–they carved turnips! After arriving in the U.S., Irish immigrants found pumpkins a-plenty, and decided they were much easier to carve than turnips for their ancient holiday tradition.
4. Morton, Illinois calls itself the “Pumpkin Capital of the World.” It’s the town where the Libby corporation cans the pumpkin you might have used for a pie or two.
5. Pumpkins are one of the most nutritious of vegetables, being very high in fiber, vitamins A, B and C and beta-carotene, plus the minerals phosphorus, potassium, calcium and iron.
6. Pumpkins were once recommended for getting rid of freckles and for curing snake bites.
7. Cucumbers are in the same family–cucurbita–as pumpkins. (Somehow, I don’t think I’d be interested in a cucumber pie!)
8. Speaking of pie…. The largest pumpkin pie ever made was over five feet in diameter and weighed over 350 pounds. It used 80 pounds of cooked pumpkin, 36 pounds of sugar and 12 dozen eggs and took six hours to bake.
9. And speaking of giant…. The current world-record holder for giant pumpkins is Beni Meier, a Swiss accountant who grew a pumpkin in 2015 that weighed in at 2,323.7 pounds, roughly the same as a small car. Yowza!
10. Pumpkins are 90% water. (Can your kids use their math skills to figure out how many pounds of water made up that 2,323.7 pound pumpkin?)
Let your kids design a quiz from this information, developing true-false, fill-in-the-blank or multiple choice questions from their newly learned fun facts–and put their favorite grownups in the spotlight!
Barbara Jean the Story Queen
Information adapted from Smithsonian Magazine Online, the Pumpkin Patch, the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal Online. Kids-on-pumpkins photo courtesy USDA via flickr. Giant pumpkin photo used with permission via creativecommons.org: Vasenka Photography, flickr.com.
First, a disclaimer: I’m not a doctor. I’m not a nutritionist. I’m not a chef. I’m not even a mom. What I know about healthy food and healthy eating I’ve learned by reading and doing, just like you.
What I am is a children’s book author. A Story Queen! My area of expertise is FUN. In the last dozen years, I’ve written a number of entertaining, award-winning picture books–about monsters, cats, Disney princesses–and veggies, of all things.
I’m big on imagination. Monsters Don’t Eat Broccoli encourages kids (the way my dad encouraged my siblings and me) to think of broccoli as crunchy, munchy, fun-to-eat trees. Once Upon a Parsnip is a fairytale rematch between Little Red Riding Hood (a vegetarian) and the Big Bad Wolf (NOT a vegetarian). Scary fun!
On the surface, neither of my veggie books is really about healthy eating–they’re just plain fun. But the fun is subversive: both books introduce and normalize the idea of eating healthy, fresh-from-the-garden vegetables. (Never underestimate the power of fun to get your kids to try something new!)
My goal in these pages is to find and share fun ways to introduce fresh fruits and vegetables to children and to normalize healthy foods and healthy eating in their experience. My means is to expose them–through you, their parents and caregivers–to food-friendly books, videos, downloadable and printable posters and coloring pages, hands-on activities and kid-friendly recipes. Anything that equates healthy food and FUN!
I’m here for you–to help you make healthy eating feel as natural to your children as breathing.
Because healthy food and healthy fun make healthy kids. And that’s something all of us can get behind.
Barbara Jean Hicks, a.k.a. “The Story Queen”
To purchase signed, personalized copies of my picture books, visit the “Books” page on my website. To contact me about my well regarded young author presentations for schools, or for other enquiries, send an email from the “Contact” page at barbarajeanhicks.com. I look forward to hearing from you!