by Craig Dimitri 

The pumpkin is native to the New World, and its etymology stems from the first European to take the time to categorize its discovery, over 400 years ago.  In 1584, the French explorer Jacques Cartier was the first to record his finding of an unusual, orange plant, while exploring present-day Canada.  It has been concluded that pumpkins have been grown in North America for five thousand years, or about 4,600 years ahead of Cartier’s arrival in the late 16th century.

Cartier described this novel, melon-esque fruit as “gros melons” – which means, in French, literally, “fat melons”.  Perhaps for greater euphony, when the French phrase was translated into English, the orange gourds were referred to as “pompions”.  Eventually, pompion was eroded into “pumpkin.”

There may not be a “Great Pumpkin” – but there have been some big ones over the years.  The largest pumpkin ever recorded tipped the scales at 1,337 pounds, over half a ton.  Charles Houghton of New Boston, New Hampshire (interesting name for a town!) is credited with the feat.

You might be thinking that it would be tough for a 1,337-pound pumpkin to be transformed into a pumpkin pie: it is.  The largest pumpkin ever baked, in 2003, was a relatively small 418-pounder, less than a third the size of Houghton’s pumpkin.

This humble gourd actually is quite healthy, as long as one stays away from the 400-pound variety.  The pumpkin is an excellent source of Vitamins A and B, as well as potassium, protein, and iron.  Moreover, they are high in fiber, and low in salt, fat, and calories.

All of these facts come from the History Channel’s online exhibit on the History of Halloween, located at http://www.history.com/minisites/halloween/

Questions?  Comments?  Information?  You can contact Craig Dimitri at cdimitri1@yahoo.com. 

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