Pumpkins and Thanksgiving

Pumpkins and Thanksgiving

For pottage and puddings and custards and pies
Our pumpkins and parsnips are common supplies,
We have pumpkins at morning and pumpkins at noon,

If it were not for pumpkins, we should be undoon.” – Pilgrim verse, circa 1633


With Thanksgiving here, I thought about old traditions that seem to continue each year, and thought about the importance of the pumpkin during the month of October.  I find it ironic to think that we consume pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving as a holiday treat, and only a few weeks later, we carve faces and spooky cats into its flesh and stick it outside our home with a light inside.  What other fruit or vegetable can you think of that is held indoors in reverence, only to be cast outside as a holiday ornament later that same month?  I thought that I would do a little research into the beloved pumpkin and share it with you.  Feel free to share these pumpkin tidbits with your friends and family during Thanksgiving dinner!

The history of a pumpkin (or “jack-o-lantern” when carved at Halloween), dates back all the way to early Greece.  In fact, the word “pumpkin” got its name from the Greek word “pepon” meaning large melon!  The early pumpkins were not round, but actually resembled a large turnip in shape.  Pumpkins and other squash types were often grown along riverbanks with beans and sunflowers long before corn was cultivated. A pumpkin is not considered a vegetable, but a fruit because of its seeds, although when it is cooked, it is often referred to as a vegetable!

Pumpkins have a colorful history in North America and often were not just simply orange as we recognize today, but grew in many colors such as yellow, white or a reddish color.  The First Nations used to roast strips of pumpkin for food during the long winter months and would also eat the pumpkin seeds or use them for medicine or ground them into a flour.  One rumor that still exists today is that Christopher Columbus actually took pumpkin seeds with him back to Europe, although they simply used them as feed for the pigs.

Early pilgrim settlers also quickly fell in love with the pumpkin and would cut the top off a pumpkin and hollow the inside out, and then fill it with cream, honey, eggs and spices and cook it in the ashes of a cooking fire. The pilgrims actually made a pumpkin beer which contained hops, maple sugar, pumpkin and persimmons.  Today, pumpkin ale, pumpkin latte, pumpkin muffins and scones seem to be flooding the stores as soon as Fall approaches.

The jack-o-lantern is believed to have originated in Ireland as they used to carve faces in turnips, potatoes and other root vegetables as part of a Gaelic festival. There are over 50 different types of pumpkins in the world, and some can grow several hundreds of pounds in size.  With so many immigrants from Europe, carved turnips and potatoes quickly lost their popularity and were replaced by the easily grown and carved pumpkin.

I have to admit that I was fascinated to learn a little history about the pumpkin and wanted to share it with you.   McCullough Marketing Team is grateful for the amazing support from our clients, family and friends this year and we wish you all a wonderfully relaxing and pumpkin-filled weekend.

Brian McCullough

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