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Pumpkins are so much more than just a fun holiday accessory
WHAT IS NATIONAL PUMPKIN DAY?
National Pumpkin Day falls on October 26. Pumpkins are so much more than just a fun holiday accessory. Not only are they one of the best-known sources of beta-carotene (an antioxidant converted to vitamin A in the body), but pumpkins are loaded with fiber, potassium, and vitamin C. Try some on National Pumpkin Day (and of course have a little fun carving them).
WHAT ARE SOME NATIONAL PUMPKIN DAY RELATED HOLIDAYS?[size]
Pumpkin pie or no pumpkin pie — if it weren’t for Halloween, we wouldn’t think twice about pumpkins. Halloween’s the best thing that ever happened to these big giant gourds/squashes/fruits — besides, quite possibly, the Smashing Pumpkins.
Pumpkins can thank Thanksgiving for their other slice of yearly publicity. Everything turns, well, pumpkin-ish in late November especially when we our beloved pumpkin pies appear as the definitive Thanksgiving dessert.
Supermarkets suddenly sprout pumpkins once the calendar turns to fall. And pumpkin patches appear. And we all start watching It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown. Pumpkins are perhaps the ultimate symbol that autumn has arrived.
HISTORY OF NATIONAL PUMPKIN DAY
Pumpkins are a member of the gourd family, which includes cucumbers, honeydew melons, cantaloupe, watermelons and zucchini. Most people don’t realize they are fruits — not vegetables. These plants are native to Central America and Mexico, but now grow on six continents. Their history in North America goes back 5,000 years.
Pumpkins are indigenous to the Western Hemisphere. As Frenchman Jacques Cartier explored the St. Lawrence region of North America in the 1500s, he reported finding what the French called “gros melons.” The name was translated into English as “pompions,” which has since evolved into the modern “pumpkin.”
We use pumpkins for both food and recreation — especially during Halloween and Thanksgiving.. Pumpkin pie has become a traditional part of Thanksgiving in both the U.S. and Canada. We also carve jack-o’-lanterns around Halloween, although the pumpkins we eat and the ones we carve generally come from two different types of winter squash. (Note: A gourd is generally considered inedible squash.) Remember — gourds get funny faces. Squash winds up on the dinner table.
The Halloween connection dates back to the 1800s. The term “jack-o’-lantern” first appeared in 1837, while the idea of a carved pumpkin, specifically, originated in 1866.
Farmers generally plant pumpkins in early July. The fruit (yes, fruit) requires soil that holds water well. Crops suffer if there’s either a lack of water or unusually chilly temperatures. Still, pumpkins are rather durable and can regrow damaged vines if necessary.
Even pumpkin seeds are a popular snack. Grocery stores often sell them both hulled and semi-hulled. They’re a good source of protein, magnesium, copper, and zinc.
NATIONAL PUMPKIN DAY ACTIVITIES
Try a new recipe at home
Try a new way of preparing pumpkin today! Never had a roasted spicy pumpkin soup? What about a pumpkin smoothie? How about pickled pumpkin with cinnamon. Try making your own!
Bake a pie, bread, or scone
Ok, so most of the time pumpkin pies are baked around the holidays, but don't let that limit you: there are no rules as to when you can enjoy a delicious slice of pumpkin pie. But if you do think that pie belongs to Thanksgiving or Christmas only, try another pumpkin-baked treat! Pumpkin bread, pumpkin muffins, pumpkin scones?
Carve a Pumpkin
Enjoy some traditional October pumpkin fun. Think of your favorite cartoon character, slogan, or image and have fun carving it into a pumpkin. Print out your design and use a toothpick to poke small dots into your pumpkin to transfer the design and get carving!
WHY WE LOVE NATIONAL PUMPKIN DAY
Eating pumpkins is good for your health
Did you know that the potassium in pumpkins can have a positive effect on blood pressure? Eating a diet high in fiber, potassium, and vitamin C (all of which pumpkins have), is also associated with a reduced risk of stroke, protection against loss of muscle mass, preservation of bone mineral density, and reduction in the formation of kidney stones. In addition, the antioxidants and vitamins in pumpkins could prevent degenerative damage to the eyes.
Pumpkins are delicious
Pumpkins are an amazingly versatile fruit, they can be used in sweet, savory, spicy, or salty dishes! You can bake them, boil them, steam them, puree them, even fry them. With so many ways to prepare pumpkins, and so many flavors you can add to them, there is guaranteed to be a way that appeals to everyone.
Pumpkins are fun to carve
Everyone loves carving pumpkins, and to top it off, it’s a great way to have fun with the kids. Invite your neighbors over, invite your friends over and have a pumpkin-carving party.
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