Pumpkins are more than bright orange decorations for Halloween and the basis of a tasty pumpkin pie – they can be an amazing source of nutrition and health. The key is looking beyond the bright orange shell to the benefits inside. What better way to do that than a little pumpkin trivia? These eight insights will help you look at pumpkin in a different light and teach you a few interesting facts about pumpkins you probably don’t know.
- Pumpkins are all-American. The earliest pumpkins have been traced back to Northern Mexico and the American Southwest, sprouting between 7,000 and 5,500 B.C. They were brought to other parts of the world by travelers and conquistadors, so now pumpkins are cultivated on every continent except Antarctica.
- Need nutrition? Eat some pumpkin. Part of what makes pumpkin so full of nutrition is that almost all of the plant can be eaten – shell, seeds, leaves, and even the flowers are edible and delicious when prepared right. Pumpkins can be steamed, roasted, boiled, or dried, while the leaves and flowers are used as snacks or soup flavorings.
A serving of mashed or pureed pumpkin (one cup) contains nearly 300 percent of your recommended daily allowance of vitamin A. It’s a good source of vitamin C, vitamin E, riboflavin, potassium, iron, and manganese, as well as containing nearly 5 mg per serving of Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids.
A serving of roasted pumpkin seeds (one cup) contains twelve grams of protein with no cholesterol. They’re a good source of vitamin A, folate, magnesium, potassium, zinc, and copper as well as Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids.
- Pumpkins are some of the thirstiest and hungriest foods in your garden. To grow to a ripe old age and generate all of its vitamin power, pumpkins require large amounts of water and soil nutrients. They’re 90 percent water, drinking in an average of an inch per week, and love to suck nitrogen, phosphorus, and other nutrients out of the soil.
- Illinois is the pumpkin state. Approximately 95 percent of all the processed pumpkin in the United States is grown in Illinois. In case you’re curious, that’s nearly 1.5 billion pounds of pumpkin! Even more surprising? Nestle Corporation may be famous as a chocolate company, but it produces 85 percent of the processed pumpkin in the U.S. You might have noticed in 2009, when a rainy year in Illinois damaged the crop there and resulted in pumpkin shortages across the country.
- Pumpkins are vegetables of unusual size. While the average Connecticut field pumpkin weighs in between eight and fifteen pounds, some pumpkins can grow to well over 1,000 pounds. The current world record holder in the giant pumpkin category is Chris Stevens, who grew an Atlantic Giant pumpkin to a shocking 1,810 pounds in 2010.
- Pumpkins can cure what ails you. Historical folk remedies recommended pumpkin as a cure for freckles, but modern science is researching how pumpkin helps cure elements of both diabetes and cancer. It turns out that some of the same phytochemicals that give pumpkin its unique color can also help regulate glucose and insulin production in diabetics. Meanwhile, early research is promising for breast and prostate cancer patients who take pumpkin seed oil, as the alpha-linolenic acid it contains can prevent metastases and the spread of the disease.
- Animals need pumpkin, too. It’s not just people who benefit from pumpkins – animals get a lot out of it, too. Cats and dogs with digestive problems can be treated with canned pumpkin, while chickens that are fed pumpkin in the wintertime lay more eggs than other hens. As a high-fiber plant with lots of nutrition, pumpkin can also be used to plump out feed for horses, cattle, and pigs.
- Throwing a pumpkin is a major sporting event. Though you may not think of a pumpkin as a piece of sports equipment, there are thousands of people who love nothing more than a good pumpkin chucking (Punkin’ Chunkin’) competition. There’s a World Championship Punkin’ Chunkin’ Association and more than 100 teams compete in the world championship games held annually in Delaware.
In this “game” the objective is to throw a pumpkin as far as possible. Think it won’t go far? World championship events routine cross 1,000 feet, while in 2010, a team showcasing their skills in Moab, Utah, shot a pumpkin 5,545 feet, earning themselves a Guinness World Record.
Have more pumpkin trivia or pumpkin lore to share? Post it in the comments, and let’s all give tribute to a vegetable that’s much more than a seasonal showpiece.