This vibrant orange squash is the hallmark of the autumn season. As the golden days of October fade away into clear, light blue skies, crisp windy afternoons and the fiery colors of changing leaves, pumpkins begin to dot the landscape. As porch decorations on your neighbor’s home. In large bins at local stores and suppliers. As projects for local schoolchildren and 4-H club members. Across fields, ready to be picked.
“Pumpkin” evolved from an early word meaning “large melon,” and the plant is native to North America. The earliest pumpkin seeds have been located in Mexico and are believed to date back to 7000 – 5550 BCE. This article from the University of California by Rosane Oliveira has some other great fast facts about pumpkins. (Did you know that there are over 45 different varieties of pumpkins?)
Are you interested in raising your own pumpkins? Obviously, as it’s October, we’ve “missed the boat” for this season, but one can always plan for next year. Though it varies a little bit between geographical location and variety, the planting season for pumpkins is typically spring and into early summer. This article from the University of Illinois has some great pointers on the process, as does this piece from Texas A&M.
What about decorating? Though it might feel a little overused sometimes, the jack-o’-lantern is a timeless facet of the Halloween season. And you don’t ever have to feel like you’re worked into a corner – there are endless possibilities out there for ‘ol Jack, especially with more intricate saws and carving tools available every year (and the internet). The only limits are your spirit of adventure and artistic ability. Have fun with it!
One of my favorite parts of Halloween during my middle school and early high school years was to go to a neighboring property, where the owners would purchase hundreds of pumpkins and bedeck their entire yard with a maze of carvings lighting up the night with everything from “simple” jack-o’-lanterns and spider carvings to elaborate re-imaginings of everything from Elvis to the Mona Lisa. It was pretty spectacular.
Not feeling the mess? There are plenty of decorating options that don’t include cutting. You can paint your pumpkin. Glue on a pattern of leaves from your yard. Dress it up with some lace or ribbon, pieces of colorful tissue paper, fake flowers or studs or gems from your local craft supplier. The possibilities are pretty much endless.
Want to celebrate the fruits of your labor with your neighbors? Though sometimes thought of as a thing of yesteryear, in many rural contexts you can still enter these types of items in your county fair or a similar event. Country Culture’s own Becky V. recently entered a ginormous pumpkin in our local Fonda Fair. She grew the 114-pound Dill’s Atlantic Giant in the backyard of her Montgomery County home and walked away with a second place red ribbon for her work.
No conversation about pumpkin season would be complete without touching on all of the tasty treats this time of year brings with it. For a great roasted pumpkin seed recipe, visit All Recipes. You can find some great general pumpkin recipes at https://www.allrecipes.com/recipes/1090/fruits-and-vegetables/vegetables/squash/winter-squash/pumpkin/.
What are you waiting for? Grab your witch hats and let’s get to carving.
by Andy Haman