Pumpkins: Just the Facts, Ma’am

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Pumpkins are so entrenched in our North American culture this time of year, that it’s easy to forget they’re not equally popular the world over.  They’re native to Central America and Mexico, but they’ve been grown in North America for five thousand years.

Bob's Pumpkin Farm, Half Moon Bay

Bob’s Pumpkin Farm, Half Moon Bay

Pilgrims learned to cultivate, grow and store pumpkins from the Native Americans.  Without them, they would have starved in those early 1600s winters. Pumpkin pie is traditionally served  at the Thanksgiving meal.  It’s easy to forget what a significant role it played in the early Pilgrim’s lives.

White pumpkin with flowers

Thanksgiving flower arrangement

We have a number of pumpkin festivals and pumpkin “patches” in our community.  We attended many of them when our boys were young, and were sorry when a few closed to make room for development.

The immensely popular Half Moon Bay Pumpkin Festival, dubbed the World Pumpkin Capital celebrates 42 years in 2012. The festival highlight for those of us serious about pumpkins, is the great pumpkin weigh-off.  Last year’s winning pumpkin tipped the scales at a mind-boggling 1,704 pounds. Unfortunately, the festival has grown so popular that it can take upwards of an hour to get to the center of town.  We joined friends for an off weekend last year, so we could drive through Half Moon Bay and along the beautiful coast, while avoiding the traffic nightmare.

Bob's Pumpkin Farm

Lifting Weights at Bob’s Pumpkin Farm

I dream of growing our own “Atlantic Giant,” out back, but lack the stamina and will power of the serious growers. It’s fun to read about the efforts the hard-core growers employ, and to see the amazing results.  It was quite the thrill growing a 62 pound beauty this year.

I can’t wait to see what the seeds and flesh are like inside.  My husband lovingly carves our pumpkins year after year.  We dry and store seeds for the following season and the cycle begins anew.

assorted pumpkins

2011 Pumpkin Crop

Pumpkin Facts

  • Pumpkins are a member of the gourd family, which includes cucumbers, honeydew melons, cantaloupe, watermelons and zucchini.
  • The largest pumpkin pie ever baked was in 2005 and weighed 2,020 pounds.
  •  In 1584, after French explorer Jacques Cartier explored the St. Lawrence region of North America, he reported finding “gros melons.” The name was translated into English as “pompions,” which has since evolved into the modern “pumpkin.”
  • Pumpkins are low in calories, fat, and sodium and high in fiber. They are good sources of Vitamin A, Vitamin B, potassium, protein, and iron.
  • The heaviest pumpkin weighed 1,810 lb 8 oz and was presented by Chris Stevens at the Stillwater Harvest Fest in Stillwater, Minnesota, in October 2010.
  • Pumpkin seeds should be planted between the last week of May and the middle of June. They take between 90 and 120 days to grow and are picked in October when they are bright orange in color. Their seeds can be saved to grow new pumpkins the next year.

 U.S. Census Bureau and the Guinness Book of World Records


Halloween Countdown

Pumpkins and Flowers

Pumpkins and Flowers

Great Pumpkins Weigh In

Last night, while the sun was setting and the earth still warm, we harvested our big pumpkins.  We ended up with four, one for each family member.  I love how that worked out.

harvesting pumpkins

Harvesting Pumpkins is a Family Affair

We cut them from the vine and brought them indoors.  The plan was to weigh each one on our Nintendo Wii Fit, the only reliable scale in the house.

Carrying the pumpkin

Carrying the pumpkin to safety

As we made our way inside, my friend Betsy and her two lovely daughters dropped by bearing gifts: a beautiful white oleander.  What timing! We invited them to join us for the great pumpkin weigh-in, a comical endeavor when you’re using the Wii.  My son created a character called “Pumpkin,” then placed it on the scale.  Everyone took turns guessing Pumpkin’s weight.  We belly laughed for half an hour at all the silly assumptions the computer made.  Our great Pumpkin had a BMI of 99.99!  When we weighed a second pumpkin, it would suggest that “Pumpkin” needed to put on some weight…or lose weight, or get more exercise.  Laughter is contagious.  One person laughs and the room laughs with them.   It was such good fun.

Wii Fit Weighs In

Wii Fit Weighs In

Every year, no matter what seeds we plant, our pumpkins surprise us.  Last year we had an eclectic variety of pumpkins; one year we had several small ones.  This year’s crop produced the largest we’ve grown.  The fab four all grew from one vine, self-seeded by a bird or squirrel.

4 great pumpkins

Our 4 Great Pumpkins

Here’s what we named them and how they stacked up:

  1. Cinderella Carriage – 42.8 pounds (19 kg)
  2. Craig – 53 pounds (24 kg)
  3. Stalky – 51.9 pounds (23 kg)
  4. Big Mac – 60.8 pounds (27 kg)

That’s a combined total of over 200 pounds of pumpkin goodness.

“There are three things I have learned never to discuss with people: religion, politics, and the Great Pumpkin.”

-Linus, from It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown by Charles Schultz

Pumpkin Update: Tired Vines, Happy Fruit

You’ll never guess what’s been hiding under the cosmos?

Give up?

A fully formed, lovely orange pumpkin!  I love surprises.

Pumpkin Collage

This is an exciting time of year in the garden.  Here is the pumpkin crop so far:

A. Grandaddy. This peach-colored pumpkin is a force to be reckoned with.  We have three growing in this size and shape.  Today we discussed stacking them to make a pumpkin “snowman.” I can’t wait to weigh them on my home scale.  I’m not getting on the scale, so I may as well use it for something.
B. Baby Bear. This little fella is probably full-sized but we won’t know till the color sets.  Most of our pumpkins started out a rich yellow, but this one has a bit of green to it. The leaves are smaller in scale, which tells me it won’t grow any bigger.  It’s about the size of a large apple.
C.  The Twins. These two pumpkins are leaning up against the house.  The vines are so thick that I’ve not been able to reach them for over a month.  I can’t wait to wrap my arms around them.
D. Peek-a-boo. The cosmos draped themselves over this orange lovely.  Do you see that little patch of orange peeking through the flowers?  I lifted the cosmos out-of-the-way and there it was, bottoms up.
E. Bottoms up. This one looks a bit like someone’s…bottom.  We’ll have to think of something clever for Halloween.  Suggestions are welcome and in fact encouraged in the comments section below.

There you have it.  Linus would be disappointed.  I’ve avoided religion and politics, but I simply can’t help myself:  I love talking about great pumpkins.

“I’ve learned there are three things you don’t discuss with people: religion, politics and the Great Pumpkin.”

-Linus in It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown by Charles Schultz