Taking a colorful and scenic drive into the country is a fall favorite. With a seasonal hot beverage in hand, heading out to a pumpkin patch to pick out pumpkins is a tradition most enjoy. Since it is pumpkin season, many harvest festivals are in full swing at this time of year. There is a range with honey festivals to apple festivals, celebrating the harvest before the winter sets in. Take in an afternoon to enjoy the sights, smells and tastes of this bountiful season… and pick a pumpkin or two.
History of Pumpkins
Pumpkins are believed to have originated in Central America over 7,500 years ago. Archaeologists discovered the oldest domesticated pumpkin seeds in the Oaxaca Highlands of Mexico.
These early Native Americans roasted pumpkin strips over campfires and used them as a food source, long before the arrival of European explorers. Pumpkins helped The Native Americans make it through long cold winters. They used the sweet flesh in numerous ways: roasted, baked, parched, boiled and dried. They ate pumpkin seeds and also used them as a medicine. The blossoms were added to stews. Dried pumpkin could be stored and ground into flour.
They dried the shells and used them as bowls and containers to store grain, beans and seeds. They also pounded and dried the pumpkin flesh into strips, and wove the strips into mats which they used for trading purposes.
It is said that Columbus carried pumpkin seeds back with him to Europe. There they were used to feed pigs, but not as a human food source.
When mentally picturing an early Thanksgiving, we usually think of a Pilgrim woman in a bleached starched white apron holding a pumpkin pie with a perfectly fluted crust . The truth is in fact, quite the opposite. The Pilgrims cut the top off of a pumpkin, scooped the seeds out, and filled the cavity with cream, honey, eggs and spices. They placed the top back on and carefully buried it in the hot ashes of a cooking fire. When finished cooking, they lifted this blackened item from the earth with no pastry shell whatsoever. They scooped the contents out along with the cooked flesh of the shell like a custard. Yumm!
The Pilgrims were also known to make pumpkin beer. They fermented a combination of persimmons, hops, maple sugar and pumpkin to make this early colonial brew.
In early colonies, pumpkin shells were used as a template for haircuts to ensure a round and uniform finished cut. As a result of this practice, New Englanders were sometimes nicknamed “pumpkinheads”.
There are many theories as to the origins of Jack-o-lanterns and Halloween. Early Jack-o-lanterns were carved from turnips and potatoes by the Irish and Scottish and carried in Celtic celebrations. The English used beets. Lumps of coal were lit on fire and placed inside the hollow root vegetables. When European settlers arrived in America, they found that our American pumpkin varieties were well suited to being carved as a “Jack’s” lanterns.
In America, a traditional Jack-o-lantern refers to a variety of pumpkin grown for its suitability for carving. They are fairly large in size, have upright strong walls, and most importantly a large hollow cavity.
In the late 1800s there was a movement to turn Halloween into a celebration emphasizing community and neighborhood activities and parties. This is the Halloween we know and celebrate today.
Photography: Sandy – Four Wishes Photography
Source: All About Pumpkins