We all get excited over pumpkins in the fall, and associate them with Halloween for the most part. But what is a pumpkin? Yeah, yeah, I know, it’s a big orange thing that we carve into jack o’lanterns, but it is really a vegetable. A member of the gourd or squash family, it can be eaten, too. It is high in vitamin A and luetin, which is good for the eyes and helps prevent cataracts and macular degeneration. Look at all the nutrients found in just one cup of pumpkin: 1 cup of cooked pumpkin flesh contains:
Calories 49 Protein 2 grams Carbohydrate 12 grams Dietary Fiber 3 grams Calcium 37 mg
Iron 1.4 mg Magnesium 22 mg Potassium 564 mg Zinc 1 mg Selenium .50 mg Vitamin C 12 mg
Niacin 1 mg Folate 21 mcg Vitamin A 2650 IU Vitamin E 3 mg
Who knew a slice of pumpkin pie could be so good for you???
There are several different varieties of pumpkins. Some get really big, up to 18 pounds. And some are small, and have a sweeter tasting flesh, and are better for pies. Sugar Pie pumpkins are the modern baking pumpkin. The skin is very thin, the flesh is finer grained than a jack-o-lantern type pumpkin , which were bred for thick rinds and stability when carved . . . not for eating. It is also quite dry which makes for a more stable pie. Pumpkins range in color from white to dark orange! Amazing! To some pictures of some amazing different looking pumpkins, look here.
So, why do we carve pumpkins into Jack O’lanterns? Who decided that it would be a good thing to do? From an article on About.com:
According to legend, the jack-o’-lantern took its name from a roguish Irishman known as Stingy Jack, who tricked the Devil into promising he wouldn’t end up going to hell for his sins. When Jack died he found out he had been barred from heaven, too, so he journeyed down to the gates of hell to demand his due. Wouldn’t you know it, the Devil kept his promise by dooming Jack to wander the earth for all eternity with only an ember of hellfire of to light his way. Thenceforth, the legend says, he was known as Jack O’Lantern.
When my kids were growing up, we always carved our pumpkins free hand. I never thought about getting a pattern or drawing the outline on with a marker first. These days, there are all kinds of patterns available, and if you follow the instructions step by step, you can create some spectacular pumpkins. A pumpkin carving kit costs less than $5.00 at places like Wal-Mart or Target, and can be reused year after year. And for ideas, check out this great site with printable patterns! Wowzer! Use one of those and have the best pumpkin in your neighborhood.
After you have carved your pumpkin, you can preserve it, or make it last longer, by dipping it in a solution of 1 teaspoon of bleach to one gallon of water, or brush it with the solution. After it has dried, rub some vaseline on the cut surfaces to keep it from drying out.
And just because I love pumpkin, here are some more pumpkin recipes: