I love pumpkins and not just at Halloween. I am probably one of the few people who actually saves the meat from the pumpkin before carving a Jack-o’-lantern so I can make a pumpkin pie. Yes, it’s a lot more work, but the benefit is a food treat that is actually good for you. And of course the health benefits of pumpkin seeds are well known.
It turns out that pumpkins are perhaps the oldest domesticated plants on Earth dating back as far as 10,000 years B.C. according to Cindy Ott, the author of Pumpkin: The Curious History of an American Icon. When Europeans first arrived in North America, they relied on pumpkin as a survival food and they even made beer from it. The large orange globe is rich with nutrition and will store well in a root cellar providing food through the winter. Of course that was when we had root cellars and people even bothered to preserve and store food in the days before super markets and quick stops.
The appearance of a smiling or spooky face carved on a pumpkin is only a recent occurrence, supposedly an old tradition to frighten away evil spirits who might be lurking. The roots of Halloween go back 2000 years to the ancient Celtic holiday of Samhain when the spirits of the dead supposedly walk the Earth for a night. The word Samhain actually means ‘summer’s end.’ Much later in the 8th Century that Pope Gregory III designated November 1st to honor saints and martyrs. The holiday, All Saints’ Day, incorporated some of the traditions of Samhain and the evening before was known as All Hallows’ Eve and later Halloween.
So now you know more than you probably need to know about pumpkins and Halloween. But do be sure to carve up a pumpkin and actually eat it. If you think of it as a big squash or gourd, you’ll prepare it in a similar manner. Cut it in pieces, scrape out the pulp and seeds, and bake in the oven at 350 degrees F for about an hour, depending on the size of the sections. Once it’s cooked and cooled, you can cut of the skin and your pumpkin will be ready to use in pies, soups, or as a yummy side dish. You can see in my pumpkin pie, I added raisins or dried fruit and pine nuts to give it an extra oomph. Enjoy!
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