Few of our common crops have such a long and storied history as the humble pumpkin! These orange gourds are part of our family traditions, our favorite meals, and the cultural fabric of our nation.
We’ve collected 25 fascinating facts about these tasty squashes. Prepare to be amazed!
Facts About the Pumpkin Plant
- Although we often think of pumpkins as vegetables, they’re actually fruits! Pumpkins, along with cucumbers, tomatoes, and avocados, come from the flowers of their plants. That makes them all fruits.
- Pumpkins are also a type of winter squash. And yes, all squashes are technically fruits as well.
- Each pumpkin contains about 500 seeds.
- Once they sprout, pumpkins take between 90 and 120 days to reach maturity. Learn more about the Life Cycle of a Pumpkin!
- There are more than 45 different types of pumpkin, with fun names like Baby Bear, Spooktacular, Ghost Rider, Tricky Jack, and Sweetie Pie.
- Atlantic Giants are the largest overall species of pumpkin. They can grow as much as 50 pounds per day!
Delicious and Nutritious Pumpkin Facts
- Every part of the pumpkin is edible, including the skin, leaves, flowers, and stem. Pumpkin and other squash blossoms can be eaten raw. They’re also particularly tasty when lightly battered and fried!
- Pumpkin pie is America’s favorite Thanksgiving dessert, with 36% of us preferring it to other traditional options like pecan, apple, or sweet potato.
- Those giant pumpkins are edible, they don’t taste very good. Stick to small sugar pumpkins for pies and soups.
- Pumpkin is a great source of beta carotene, which gives it its orange color (just like carrots and sweet potatoes). Beta carotene turns into vitamin A after you eat it, which is great for your eye and skin health, and supports your immune system.
- Roasted pumpkin seeds are both tasty and nutritious! They are low in calories and high in protein and iron.
Amazing Pumpkin History
- Pumpkins are native to Central America and Mexico. Originally small and bitter, they were selectively bred by Central and Native Americans to be bigger, fleshier, and sweeter.
- When the Pilgrims relocated to North America, they didn’t know how to cook this new-to-them gourd. So the Native Americans taught them how to cultivate and cook fresh pumpkin.
- As a staple crop, pumpkin was most likely served at the first Thanksgiving. But their version of pumpkin pie was quite different from ours. Without butter or flour for crust, they hollowed out a pumpkin and filled it with a combination of milk, honey, and spices before baking it in the ash of the fire.
- During World War II, many Americans grew “Victory Gardens” to supplement their grocery rations. Pennsylvania’s The Victory Garden Handbook from 1944 recommended growing and eating pumpkins for their nutritional value.
- The first Jack-o-Lanterns weren’t made from pumpkins at all. They were made from turnips! A folk tale said that “Stingy Jack” tried to trick the devil into paying for his bar tab. After Jack died, the devil wouldn’t let Jack cross over to the afterlife. Instead, he had to wander the Earth at night, lit by a single coal. He put his coal in a hollowed out turnip, and earned the nickname “Jack of the Lantern.” This Irish tale led to the tradition of carving turnips in Jack’s likeness, to keep him at bay.
- When Irish emigrants moved to America, they found pumpkins much more suitable for carving than turnips, and the modern Jack o’ Lantern was born.
Where Pumpkins Grow
- While they originated in Central America, pumpkins now grow on all continents except Antarctica.
- The state of Illinois wins the pumpkin production battle, growing over 12,000 acres of pumpkins each year. That’s twice as many as any other state! (We get many of our pumpkins from family farms in nearby Michigan, also a major pumpkin producer.)
- Morton, Illinois is considered the “Pumpkin Capital of the World.” Morton is home to Libby’s, the producer of 85% of the world’s canned pumpkin!
- Over 1.5 billion pounds of pumpkins are grown every year in the United States.
Record-Holding Pumpkins (and Pumpkin Events)
- The current record for the World’s Heaviest Pumpkin is 2,624 lbs. That’s the weight of a 1971 Ford Maverick! This gigantic gourd was grown by Belgian Mathias Willemijns in 2016.
- The heaviest pumpkin ever grown in the United States weighed 2,528 lbs. It was grown by Steve Geddes of New Hampshire in 2018.
- The largest pumpkin pie ever made came from the New Bremen Pumpkinfest in Ohio. This Guinness World Record holding pie had a diameter of 20 feet in diameter and weighed 3,699 pounds. Its crust was made from 440 sheets of dough!
- Trevor Hunt holds the Guinness World Record for most pumpkins carved in an hour. He carved 109 pumpkins in 60 minutes, or just 33 seconds per pumpkin.
Starting to think about fall pumpkins? Come out to the Barton Hill Farms Fall Festival, Pumpkin Patch, and Corn Maze! You and your family can enjoy a day of fun on the farm, and come home with the perfect carving pumpkin for your Halloween season. Save $3 on preseason tickets through September 22nd!