The Lowdown on the Great Autumn Gourd

October 15, 2020

Corn might be the king of U.S. crops, but pumpkins are always in demand this time of year by kids and others celebrating fall’s festivities. Here are several interesting tidbits about one of America’s favorite fall gourds.

Germany boasts world’s largest pumpkin. Mathias Willemijns showed off the world’s largest pumpkin in 2016 at the Giant Pumpkin European Championship, officially weighing in at a stout 2,624.6 pounds. Steve Geddes of New Hampshire is the owner of the largest U.S. pumpkin, weighing 2,528 pounds at the 2018 Deerfield Fair.

Illinois is the U.S. pumpkin leader. Pumpkins are grown in all 50 states, but Illinois is by far the leader with about 600 million pounds of pumpkins harvested every year. Runner-up honors go to California, Indiana, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas and Virginia. Each of these states annually produce approximately 100 million pounds of pumpkin.

Pumpkin beer has plenty of fanfare. Pumpkin beer was actually a thing hundreds of years ago when the Pilgrims arrived in America as pumpkins were plentiful and provided an easy source of fermentable sugar. Who knew?

Pumpkin carving started with the Irish. Jack-o’-lanterns were first carved by the Irish and Scottish using turnips and potatoes. They used the carved vegetables as part of their Celtic celebrations. Immigrants brought their carving traditions to America, but found that pumpkins were an easier vegetable to carve.

There are more than 40 varieties of pumpkin. The best pumpkins to use for cooking are Bab Pam, Autumn Gold, Ghost Rider, New England Pie Pumpkin, Lumina, Cinderella and Fair Tale. Most of the pumpkins you see on roadside stands and farms are for decoration only and not very tasty.

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