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The Great Pumpkin

Falls has arrived!

fall leaves on a string

Photo by Chris Lawton on Unsplash

Fall is right around the corner and summer is slowly fading away. The not-so-hot, cooler weather flowing into our towns, late walks after work with the family, scary movies before we go to bed, and the special gatherings while enjoying warm beverages has arrived! Before we let this special season in, let’s make sure we are prepared with one of the most popular fruits, which is the pumpkin!

person comes to note on the ground that says, "There is nothing stranger than the truth."

Photo by Oksana Manych on Unsplash

Interesting Facts About Pumpkins!

Let’s get started with some interesting pumpkin facts you may have not known about, shall we? So, I mentioned pumpkins are a fruit, but did you know their flowers are edible? Check below and you’ll see some more incredible facts about this special fruit we all love!

  • Pumpkins originated within Central America.
  • During the early colonial times, pumpkins were used as an ingredient for the crust of the famous pumpkin pies we absolutely love to eat during this great time of the year!
  • Pumpkins were once recommended for removing freckles and curing snake bites.
  • Native Americans used pumpkin seeds for food and medicine.
  • Pumpkin is a member of the squash family.

Pumpkins aren’t just for pumpkin pies and carving. You can use the varieties that are ornamentals for fall, and to name a few, which include the ‘Munchkin, ‘Sweetie Pie,’ ‘Buskin,’ ‘Minijack,’ and ‘Jack-be-Little.’ These miniature fruits are 3-4 inches in diameter.

‘Connecticut Field’ pumpkins are the most popular pumpkins used for carving. There are some other names they go by such as, ‘Big Tom,’ ‘Canner’s Supreme,’ ‘Common Field,’ ‘Connecticut Cornfield,’ ‘Golden Marrow,’ ‘Lake Shore,’ Michigan Mammoth,’ ‘Pure Gold,’ and ‘Yankee.’ These pumpkins are commonly used for canning, animal feed, carving, and our favorite, pumpkin pies! (https://sfyl.ifas.ufl.edu/lawn-and-garden/florida-pumpkins/)

Did you know that the world’s largest pumpkin weighs in at a total of 2624.6 pounds? Wow, that’s a lot of pumpkin for some pumpkin pie this Thanksgiving! This pumpkin was grown by Mathias Willemijns from Ludwigsburg, Germany. Mathias has placed first at the Giant Pumpkin European Championship.

Family Activities

pumpkin in a field of pumpkins

This is not the biggest pumpkin! Photo by Marius Ciocirlan on Unsplash

So, other than the regular old activities that involved pumpkins in the past, let’s try something else!  Drumroll, please! Are you ready? Pumpkin tic-tac-toe anyone? This will be a great way to spend some time with your family and loved ones. For pumpkin tic-tac-toe, simply carve some pumpkins that are scary or cute, then you can make a life-size tic-tac-toe table with some duct tape! All you will need is some duct tape and some good-sized pumpkins. If you would like to do this indoors, you can make some space available in the living room or the garage. You can even try doing this on a large size dining table with some mini pumpkins for those that will prefer to be nice and warm indoors.

Health Benefits

When you think of a pumpkin, immediately the first color that comes to mind is what? Orange! Did you know bright colors from fruit indicate that they are loaded with antioxidants, such as beta-carotene? Beta-carotene is a plant carotenoid and antioxidant! Carotenoids are responsible for the bright yellow, red, and orange colors we see in plants. The bright orange color of a pumpkin you see is a dead (no pun intended) giveaway that pumpkin is loaded with this important antioxidant. This is one of the plant carotenoids converted to vitamin A within the body. In the conversion to vitamin A, beta carotene performs many important functions for our overall health.  Vitamin A helps give us a strong immune system, healthy skin, and good vision and eye health.

Current research indicates that a diet rich in foods containing these carotenoids may reduce the risk of developing certain types of cancers and may assist in preventing heart disease. Carotenoids also offer some protection against aging, which can help us stay looking young!

Pumpkin Nutrition Facts

(1 cup cooked, boiled, drained, without salt)

Calories 49
Protein 2 grams
Carbohydrate 12 grams
Dietary Fiber 3 grams
Calcium 37 mg
Iron 1.4 mg
Magnesium 22 mg
Potassium 564 mg
Zinc 1 mg
Selenium .50 mg
Vitamin C 12 mg
Niacin 1 mg
Folate 21 mcg
Vitamin A 2650 IU
Vitamin E 3 mg

Recipes

There are some great tasting recipes out there to include into lunch or dinner this fall instead of the traditional old boring pumpkin pie that everyone is getting tired of! How about a nice warm pumpkin pasta with toasted walnuts and spinach for dinner, then a pumpkin chilling cheesecake smoothie for dessert while watching some wonderful fall movies! You can even sit outside in the cool weather and enjoy this delisious treat.

pumpkin pasta with spinach and walnuts

Picture by Marisa Moore, RDN

Check out this recipe for Pumpkin Pasta with Toasted Walnuts and Spinach by Marisa Moore, RDN.

This 20-minute creamy pumpkin pasta is a hit!  It is flavorful and good for you, and the walnuts add great texture.

The Pumpkin Cheesecake Smoothie by Catherine Hoffman, MS, RD and the academy of Nutrition and Dietetics at Eatright.org tastes like pumpkin cheesecake, only in a cup!

Want to learn about one of the tastiest and most reliable pumpkins for Florida gardens?  Check out Seminole Pumpkins from UF/IFAS Gardening Solutions!  You can eat them as a side dish or wherever you might use pumpkin or butternut squash when cooking.  For more about growing pumpkins, check out https://sfyl.ifas.ufl.edu/lawn-and-garden/florida-pumpkins/ .

References:

  • Hammond, B. R., Jr, & Renzi, L. M. (2013). Carotenoids. Advances in nutrition (Bethesda, Md.)4(4), 474–476. https://doi.org/10.3945/an.113.004028
  • Levin, N. 10 Largest Pumpkins Ever Grown. Sept 5 2019. https://largest.org/food/pumpkins/
  • Mount Sinai.  Beta-carotene.  https://www.mountsinai.org/health-library/supplement/beta-carotene
  • Wolford R., Banks, D. Pumpkins and More. 2021 University of Illinois Extension. https://web.extension.illinois.edu/pumpkins/
  • Stephens https://sfyl.ifas.ufl.edu/lawn-and-garden/florida-pumpkins/

 

This article was written by Family and Consumer Sciences Intern, Mr. Rayshawn Currie, under the supervision of Family and Consumer Sciences Extension Agent, Andrea Nikolai, MPH, RDN, LDN.

Follow Andrea for fun nutrition and food facts and recipes on Facebook @polkfcs (UF IFAS Extension Polk County Family and Consumer Sciences).

For questions or comments, please email Andrea Nikolai at  andreanikolai@ufl.edu or call 863-519-1072.  Please check out http://polkfcs.eventbrite.com for upcoming exciting food and nutrition classes!

UF/IFAS is an equal opportunity institution.

 

 

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