The Ultimate Symbol of Halloween
October 26, 2021
During the last week of October, this item dominates American culture. Its bright orange color and – often large size – make it impossible to miss. I am talking about the pumpkin
National Pumpkin Day is celebrated every year on October 26th.
Believed to be one of the oldest cultivated vegetables, pumpkins originated thousands of years ago in northern Mexico and the southern United States. There is evidence that the gourd was used as early as 7,000 BC!
The average person, however, might think that it came from New England since its first well documented historic use was at the first Thanksgiving held in Plymouth in 1621. (Although it is disputed as to the Massachusetts event being first since a similar celebration reportedly took place in Virginia two years earlier)
The pumpkin was introduced to the Pilgrims by the natives of the area. The Infallible Wikipedia advises:
“An alternate derivation for pumpkin is the Massachusetts word pôhpukun ‘grows forth round’. This term would likely have been used by the Wampanoag people (who speak the Wôpanâak dialect of Massachusett) when introducing pumpkins to English Pilgrims at Plymouth Colony, located in present-day Massachusetts.”
As a food, it is dense and fiber rich; it’s primary nutrients beta-carotene and Vitamins A and C.
The thing which catches most people’s attention, however, is its visual allure. This time of year a field of bright orange pumpkins is hard to miss. Their large size and eye catching hues are a visual treat. Also from the Infallible Wikipedia:
“Traditional C. pepo pumpkins generally weigh between 3 and 8 kilograms (6 and 18 lb), though the largest cultivars (of the species C. maxima) regularly reach weights of over 34 kg (75 lb).
The color of pumpkins derives from orange carotenoid pigments, including beta-cryptoxanthin, alpha and beta carotene, all of which are provitamin A compounds converted to vitamin A in the body.”
The heaviest pumpkin ever documented was in Belgium in 2016 and weighed 2,624 pounds! It’s amazing.
Visiting the pumpkin patch was, for our family, an annual tradition for many years. From the time my children were little we made it a priority to wander out on a sunny weekend day to pick the perfect pumpkin.
One year, while at Remlinger Farms, they had on display a pumpkin which weighed 500 pounds more as either kid. We ended up in the background of a video for one of the news stations as their reporter and cameraman were there at the same time to report on the monster pumpkin.
For a couple of years – when the kids got a bit older – we combined the pumpkin patch visit with exploration of a corn maze which was lots of fun.
Over the years many a photo was snapped of pumpkin patch fun. My favorite photo, however, came from the year we ended up just off Sahalee Way and 202 between Redmond and Sammamish. Our kids were probably around ages 10 and 7 and getting the right gourd was important. The kids – perched on a pallet of pumpkins – are clearly enjoying the event.
Home we would go each year and a day or two before Halloween, the pumpkins were carved and the costumes assembled, all in advance of the big night. But more than any other activity, it was the trip to the pumpkin patch which was my favorite part.