Fun Facts & a Recipe
1. They may not look like relatives, but pumpkins, squash, and cucumbers are members of the same family–the gourd family.
2. Their cordate (heart-shaped) leaves, yellow flowers, and creeping or climbing, vines are three characteristics that show that these vegetables belong to the same species.
2. Pumpkins originate in the Western Hemisphere–Central America and Mexico. Before Columbus, the members of the gourd (pumpkin) family were unknown in Europe.
3. The word pumpkin derives from the French word, pompion, which comes from the Greek word, pepon (by way of Old English and classical Latin) Pepon means watermelon or gourd.
4. Gourds have been around for thousands of years–from 7000 to 8000 BCE
5. Native Americans taught the Colonists how to grow and cook pumpkins.
6. When their other crops failed, the Colonists survived on pumpkins. No wonder the gourds are such a big part of the Thanksgiving celebration.
7. Nutritious pumpkin seeds (pepitas) can be roasted and ground into meal to make sauces and tortillas.
8. Native Americans used hollowed-out pumpkins as baskets or containers for seeds and grain.
9.The original Jack O’Lantern was a turnip, not a pumpkin. Jack O’Lanterns came to the United States with Irish immigrants in the middle of the 19th Century.
10. Half Moon Bay, a small town in California, is known as the World’s Pumpkin Capital. Except for this year, when it was canceled, Half Moon Bay has put on an Art and Pumpkin Festival, every October, for the past forty-nine years. It’s a fund-raising event. Proceeds are used for improvements to the town–painting, renovating, planting street trees and flowers, on Main Street and creating mini-parks. Of course, it’s also a pumpkin picking event.
11. In Colonial times people made custards by removing the seeds and strings from pumpkins, pouring milk, spices, and syrup or honey inside, and baking for several hours until done.
12. , Pumpkins aren’t just for pies or pumpkin bread. They can be used in soups, stews, casseroles, and desserts.
The following recipe is from a good friend who is a good cook. Marinated pumpkin is a Latvian favorite.
Marinated Pumpkin – Arnis’ recipe
Approximately 6 cups cubed pumpkin.
1 liter of water (4 cups)
650 ml vinegar (4%) (3 cups)
500 ml sugar (2 cups)
1 teaspoon salt
25 whole cloves
3 cinnamon sticks (12 cm or 5 inches)
1 teaspoon salt
8 – 10 whole all-spice seeds
Boil the marinade for 20 – 30 minutes to let the spices release their flavour. Then, in a separate pot- using a portion of the marinade (without spices), boil the pumpkin until the cubes start to turn transparent. Put in jars and pour the fresh hot marinade – (without spices) so that the cubes do not turn black.
Heat the jars on a cookie sheet in the oven at 300F for 10 – 12 minutes. Remove from the oven, tightly close the lids and place upside down to cool and form a vacuum seal.
*Another fun fact:
A historical note: during the Civil War many soldiers came down with scurvy. People knew that citrus fruit could prevent scurvy, but they didn’t know why. They decide it must be the sourness, so they pickled every veggie they could get their hands on. Including potatoes. Sorry. I don’t have a recipe for that.
Link to Half Moon Bay Art and Pumpkin Festival site: