Pumpkin Palooza

This year the release of the PSL (pumpkin spice latte—a new acronym I learned this week—) was August 24. As I sat writing in Starbucks, I wondered how we went from my childhood of pumpkin pie and pumpkin bread around the holidays to the pumpkin/pumpkin spice frenzy of today. That made me curious about the history of pumpkins, and to the internet I went.

To my surprise, pumpkins are fruit. (Sidebar, so are all squash, eggplants, avocados, and cucumbers. And, so you can answer the why question, it’s because those plant have seeds and the items we eat develop from the flower-producing part of the plant. Botanically that makes them fruit.) Archaeologists believe pumpkins originated in Central America 7,500 years ago, but unlike todays, those were small and had a bitter taste. (Which again makes me wonder how they caught on for food!)

Despite that beginning, a recipe for a side dish with diced pumpkin was published in New-England’s Rarities Discovered, in America in the 1670s. After that, women developed more pumpkin recipes. Serving sweet pumpkin dishes during the holidays didn’t start until the 1800s. However, the first pies were scooped out pumpkins filled with a ginger-spiced milk, then roasted by the fire. Hmmm, an early PSL?

Fun pumpkin facts:

  • Antarctica is the only content where pumpkins aren’t grown.
  • Pumpkin seeds (each pumpkin has around 500) can be roasted, then salted and eaten. The flowers are also edible.
  • Pumpkin, which are 90% water, contains carotenoids which are good for eyes and neutralizes free radicals that can attack cells.
  • Pumpkins are also high in lutein and zeaxanthin which could reduce cataract formation and risk of macular degeneration. They also contain potassium, vitamin A, iron, zinc, and fiber.
  • Irish immigrant brought the tradition of Jack-O’-Lanterns to the U.S., but instead of using turnips or potatoes, they used the American pumpkins.
  • In the United States, the heaviest pumpkin was grown in New Hampshire (2018) and weighed 2,528 pounds.
  • In 2010 a pumpkin pie was baked in Ohio weighing 3,699 pounds and over 20 feet in diameter.
  • Early American settlers cut pumpkin shells into strips, dried them, and wove them into mats.
  • Morton, Illinois is called the ‘Pumpkin Capital of the World’ and the home to Libby’s pumpkin industry. Illinois also grows the most pumpkins.
  • Pumpkins were once a remedy for freckles and snakebites.
Large pumpkins are usually used for feed for livestock.

Yesterday my Pinterest feed was filled with pumpkin recipes. My research didn’t really explain how we went from the first pumpkins to the craze we see today. But maybe the answer has something to do with the following Pilgrim verse, circa 1633.

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.”

I may not have satisfied my original curiosity, but at least now you can astound and stun your friend and family with your amazing pumpkin knowledge this Thanksgiving!

To be entered in today’s random drawing for Howdy Fall T-shirt, tell me what’s your favorite pumpkin recipe or what fun fact surprised you the most. Happy (almost) Fall, Y’all!

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Julie Benson has written five novels for Harlequin American, and her Wishing, Texas series is available from Tule Publishing. Now that her three sons have left the nest in Dallas, when she isn't writing, Julie spends her time working on home improvement projects, rescuing dogs, and visiting Texas wineries with her husband. Visit her at www.juliebenson.net.

48 thoughts on “Pumpkin Palooza”

    • Denise, you remind me of my oldest son. He still loves pumpkin bread. I would make it for my kids when they were young, but reduce the sugar some. They could have it for breakfast or a snack. When he was deployed, that was one thing he always wanted me to send him in his care packages.

      Thanks for stopping by to chat with me again today. Two days in a row. Y’all are gonna be sick of me!

    • Melanie, I know! Who would think that and a for freckles. It was kind of fun finding out all the stuff about pumpkins, even if I didn’t figure out how we got to the pumpkin spice craze. Thanks for stopping by again today to chat. Take care.

    • Debbie, for some reason, I love pumpkin but have never been crazy about pumpkin bread unless it has a slightly sweet cream cheese on top. My oldest son loves it. Even though he has my recipe and it’s not hard to make, every once in a while he’ll text me and ask for me to make him son. Which reminds me. I should make him some in honor of this post and fall. 🙂

    • Good to hear from you today, Minna. I haven’t been able to find a good pumpkin muffin recipe. The ones I’ve tried always turn out dry. .What’s the secret to yours?

      Thanks for stopping by today. I hope COVID isn’t raging where you are the way it is here in Texas! Take care and stay safe.

  1. I like pumpkin custard, but I reduce some of the spices, using only cinnamon and ginger in the full amount.

    • Oooh, Janice, I love custard, so I bet I’d love your pumpkin custard! I haven’t seen a recipe for that! What does your recipe call for? Just the traditional pumpkin spices and some pumpkin added to a regular custard recipe? How much pumpkin does your recipe call for?

      I often reduce the spices in pumpkin recipes too. For some reason, they always seem to be heavy handed with them. A subtle flavor is great, but too much overwhelms the pumpkin.

      Thanks for stopping by the corral today and for mentioning a pumpkin custard. I may have to give it a try. Take care and stay safe!

  2. That they were smaller and bitter. I know spices were used a lot back in the day too so I’m thinking they figured a way to make the bitter one’s taste better.

    • I wondered about the bitterness, too, when I read about it. I wondered why they even messed with pumpkins if they tasted that way, but I couldn’t find the answer in my research. I wondered what would make them think to add spices and give pumpkin a try? Then I realized I was thinking way too hard about pumpkins! LOL. I was surprised how much fun I had reading about them. I hate to think what that says about me!

      Thanks for stopping by today. Take care and stay safe.

    • Julie, it reminds me how much better our ancestors were at making use of everything. I hate how we’ve become such a disposable society. We don’t fix things anymore. We simply throw them away. Anyway, with as much water as is in pumpkins, I wonder how long it took the strips to dry. There I go again. Wondering way too much about pumpkins. I may need an iced pumpkin spice latte to chill out.

      Thanks for stopping by the corral today. Take care and stay safe.

    • Janine, that’s what I grew up with too. I’ve come to like pumpkin bars as long as the icing isn’t too sweet. I found a recipe for individual pumpkin pie cupcakes I may have to try. It look pretty much like my pumpkin pie recipe but there’s not crust and they’re put in cupcake liners. Then when they’re served you top with whipped cream instead of frosting. I also like pumpkin cheesecake.

      Thanks for stopping by again today to chat.

    • Cathy, my guys aren’t big on pumpkin stuff either. That’s why I don’t make pumpkin desserts often because I end up eating them all myself! But I bet they’d like it in chocolate cake. I may need to check that out. Thanks for stopping by the corral with that great suggestion. Take care and stay safe.

  3. I don’t have a favorite pumpkin recipe. The fact that early pumpkins were bitter surprised me.

    • Estella, I was surprised they were bitter, too. That, and I had no idea they were a fruit because it grows from a flower. I was glad to know how it’s determined whether something is a fruit or not, because now it makes sense. Thanks for stopping by today, and I’ll send you an email right now about yesterday’s giveaway. Take care.

  4. I guess my favorite would have to be a pumpkin roll. As far as pumpkin goes I really don’t care for it. I don’t even like pumpkin pie. The pumpkin roll I could live without it to. Just now my favorite thing to eat. Just not a fan of pumpkin

    • My guys are like you are. They aren’t big pumpkin pie eaters either, except for my oldest son. He absolutely loves pumpkin bread, but that’s it. Even after my research, I still don’t understand the pumpkin craziness. I write at Starbucks and you wouldn’t believe how many people wait and ask when the pumpkin spice lattes will be available!

      Thanks for stopping by for my second day in a row here at the corral. Take care and stay safe.

  5. Like just about anything made with pumpkin, although I never eat anyone pumpkin pie except mine. I used to teach preschool and we would have a day where 6th graders come in carve pumpkins with the little ones. I would take the seeds home, clean, and roast them and bring them back for children to eat.

    • Karen, what a wonderful idea to have bigger kids come and help little ones with carving pumpkins! It teaches both age groups important skills! I also love that you roasted the seeds and brought them back. Every year I say I’m going to do that, and every year as I’m trying to get all the stringy pumpkin goo off them, I get frustrated and give up. But this year, I’m going to roast them for sure. After seeing all the good vitamins, etc. in pumpkins and how healthy they are for us, I’m more determined!

      Take care and stay safe. Thanks for stopping by today.

    • Elizabeth, I’ll have to search for a good recipe for that! Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Muffins are something I could make that my guys might like because they LOVE anything if it has chocolate chips! Then I wouldn’t end up eating the entire pumpkin recipe myself.

      Thanks for stopping by today and telling me about the muffins. Take care and stay safe.

  6. HAPPY ALMOST FALL TO YOU ALSO (smiles) Welcome today and thanks for sharing this fun information about pumpkins. As long as I can remember, pumpkins have always been a big thing in Autumn time. I used to have a lot of pumpkin recipes, now I need to look and see if I can modify them or find others that are similar. Sigh such is the joy of getting older LOL
    quilting dash lady at comcast dot net

    • Right, Lori, getting old’s such a blast! Lol. I have a terrible time with sugar now. It doesn’t agree with my digestive system, my energy, and throws my mood all out of whack. I’ve had to cut down the sugar in recipes. A lot of great breads I’ve seen on Pinterest even without the glaze have too much sugar. 🙁 It’s amazing now that I’ve decreased how much sugar I eat how things I used to love are now way too sweet. Oh well. As my hubby says getting older is better than the alternative! Take care and thanks for stopping by to chat with me again today.

  7. My Grandmother’s pumpkin pie! I love the mix of spices her recipe calls for. It is simply delicious ?

    • Luanne, now you’ve got me curious. How are the spices in your grandmother’s pumpkin pie recipe different than what most of us do? I don’t have my recipe in front of me, but going from memory I think mine has cinnamon, all spice, ground ginger, and ground cloves.

    • Ruth, I still don’t get the craze with pumpkin spice everything. I did a post on that a couple years ago and some of the stuff was really weird! But I do love pumpkin pie. Thanks for stopping by to chat. Take care and stay safe.

    • Oooh, I forgot about having tea with pumpkin treats! Those two things are so wonderful paired together. It’s still 100 degrees here in Texas, so it will be a while before I’ll be able to drink hot tea, and somehow iced tea with muffins isn’t the same. Thanks for stopping by the corral today. Take care and stay safe.

  8. I enjoyed learning about the health benefits since that is important. During fall as a goodie I have pumpkin chocolate chip biscuits. Small but tasty.

    • Sharon, the pumpkin chocolate chip biscuits sound fabulous. They’d be wonderful with hot tea (if the weather ever cools down in Texas) and they’d be something my guys would like, too. They’ll eat anything with chocolate chips in them! I don’t bake many pumpkin items because I end up eating the whole thing myself. The older I get, the more I like and appreciate having just a small treat. Thanks for stopping by today. Take care and stay safe.

  9. Thank you for sharing all these pumpkin facts, they are so interesting! My favorite pumpkin treat would have to be the Pumpkin Cream Cheese Roll that my husband bakes, it is Delicious! Have a great rest of the week and stay safe.

  10. For our Halloween supper I make beef stew in a pumpkin. When you scoop out the stew you take some pumpkin with it. The recipe I use is altered a bit from one I found in Taste of Home a number of years ago. I am a pumpkin lover and have a lot of recipes with pumpkin or squash, but I don’t understand the pumpkin spice craze.

    • Alice, I’ve always wondered if the stew made in a pumpkin would be good and now I know. I may have to try it this Halloween. Thank you for stopping by and telling me about your Halloween pumpkin stew tradition. Take care and stay safe.

  11. Interesting post. Thank you. I am actually not a big pumpkin fan. I do make and eat pumpkin pie, but have others I like better. I have used pumpkins like squash in soup and stew recipes.

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