1. Pumpkins are a member of the gourd family, which includes cucumbers, honeydew melons, cantaloupe, watermelons and zucchini. These plants are native to Central America and Mexico, but now grow on six continents—all but Antarctica.
2. Indigenous North Americans have grown and eaten pumpkins for thousands of years—even before they grew beans and corn.
3. 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.”
4. According to the 2017 U.S. Agriculture Census, Illinois is the largest producer of pumpkins in the United States. It harvests twice as many pumpkin acres as any of the other top-producing states.
5. The heaviest pumpkin was grown in Belgium in 2016 and weighed a whopping 2,624 pounds. The heaviest pumpkin in the U.S. was grown in New Hampshire in 2018 and weighed 2,528 pounds. The largest pumpkin pie ever baked was in Ohio in 2010. It weighed 3,699 pounds and was over 20 feet in diameter.
6. 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, or toasted and seasoned for a yummy snack!.
What about Jack-o-Lanterns?
Carving pumpkins into jack-o’-lanterns is a popular Halloween tradition that originated hundreds of years ago in Ireland, when Stingy Jack tried to trick the devil and was left to wander for eternity with just one burning coal to light his way. Stingy Jack did not have a pumpkin, but hollowed out a turnip and put the coal inside, then cut holes to make a lantern. To keep Stingy Jack from stopping at their homes to bother them, the Irish folks made their own “Jack’s lanterns” to put outside their home and keep him from stopping there. It wasn’t until Irish immigrants arrived in America and discovered the pumpkin, that a new Halloween tradition was born. Now pumpkins are commonly placed on porches in the fall months, and get carved into Jack ‘o Lanterns before Halloween night.