PUMPKINS! PUMPKINS! PUMPKINS!

pumpkins

It’s that time of year again…the leaves are changing, the nights are crisp, and of course there are PUMPKINS everywhere! Here are 15 facts that you probably didn’t know about pumpkins:

  1. The U.S. pumpkin industry is valued at $141 million.
  2. U.S. farmers grow more than 1.1 billion pounds of pumpkins each year.
  3. Illinois is the #1 pumpkin producing state with nearly 12,300 acres of pumpkins planted each year.  Illinois Pumpkins
  4. The self-proclaimed “Pumpkin Capital of the World” in Morton, Illinois where Libby has its pumpkin plant.
  5. The average pumpkin weighs around 13 pounds, but the largest pumpkin ever was recorded in last year and weighed 2,009 pounds!
  6. The first “pumpkin pie” was created by American colonists who sliced off pumpkin tops, removed the seeds and filled the insides with milk, spices and honey. This was then baked in hot ashes.
  7. Pumpkins are 90% water.
  8. Pumpkins are a fruit.
  9. The largest pumpkin pie ever made weighed 3,699 pounds. What’s the recipe you might ask? All you need is 1,212 pounds of canned pumpkin, 2,796 eggs, 109 gallons of evaporated milk, 525 pounds of sugar, 7 pounds of salt and 14.5 pounds of cinnamon. Largest Pumpkin Pie
  10. 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.
  11. One cooked cup of pumpkin contains only 49 calories!
  12. 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.
  13. Pumpkin flowers are edible.
  14. Pumpkins are usually orange but can sometimes be yellow, white, green or red.
  15. Pumpkins are sometimes used in animal feed.

Bet you learned something there, didn’t you? But WAIT, there’s more! Have you ever wondered where Jack O’Lanterns came from? They have been around for centuries.

Jack O'LanternThe History of Jack O’Lanterns (from The History Channel):The practice originated from an Irish myth about a man nicknamed “Stingy Jack.” According to the story, Stingy Jack invited the Devil to have a drink with him. True to his name, Stingy Jack didn’t want to pay for his drink, so he convinced the Devil to turn himself into a coin that Jack could use to buy their drinks. Once the Devil did so, Jack decided to keep the money and put it into his pocket next to a silver cross, which prevented the Devil from changing back into his original form. Jack eventually freed the Devil, under the condition that he would not bother Jack for one year and that, should Jack die, he would not claim his soul. The next year, Jack again tricked the Devil into climbing into a tree to pick a piece of fruit. While he was up in the tree, Jack carved a sign of the cross into the tree’s bark so that the Devil could not come down until the Devil promised Jack not to bother him for ten more years.

Soon after, Jack died. As the legend goes, God would not allow such an unsavory figure into heaven. The Devil, upset by the trick Jack had played on him and keeping his word not to claim his soul, would not allow Jack into hell. He sent Jack off into the dark night with only a burning coal to light his way. Jack put the coal into a carved out turnip and has been roaming the Earth with it ever since. The Irish began to refer to this ghostly figure as “Jack of the Lantern,” and then, simply “Jack O’Lantern.”

In Ireland and Scotland, people began to make their own versions of Jack’s lanterns by carving scary faces into turnips or potatoes and placing them into windows or near doors to frighten away Stingy Jack and other wandering evil spirits. In England, large beets are used. Immigrants from these countries brought the Jack O’Lantern tradition with them when they came to the United States. They soon found that pumpkins, a fruit native to America, make perfect Jack O’Lanterns.”

FINALLY, you can’t end a blog post around pumpkins without a recipe, can you? Here’s a recipe for my mother’s FAMOUS and EASY pumpkin bars. You’ll love them, I guarantee it!

Pumpkin Bars:Pumpkin Bars

–          2 c. sugar
–          1 c. salad oil
–          4 eggs
–          2 c. pumpkin
–          2 c. flour
–          2 tsp. baking powder
–          2 tsp. baking soda
–          1 tsp. cinnamon

  1. Mix in a bowl in the order given
  2. Pour into a 15 ½ x 10 ½ in. jelly roll pan
  3. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes
  4. Cool, then frost with the following frosting

Frosting:

–          3 oz. cream cheese
–          ¾ stick margarine
–          1 tbsp. vanilla
–          3 c. powdered sugar

  1. Soften cream cheese
  2. Beat all ingredients together until smooth
  3. Spread over bars

Liz HarfstLiz Harfst
University of Illinois

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