The Amazing Pumpkin: A Gourd Of Many Uses
Most people just love pumpkins and I am among them. They not only look cool and have that amazing orange color that immediately attracts the human eye to them, but when it comes tasting great in so many products, I am definitely a fan. Although we like to use the phrase “as American as Apple Pie,” the practice of baking pies came from Europe. Pumpkins are native to North America and were here long before people started baking anything. If size matters, these gourds can grow to weigh anywhere from one to over one thousand pounds. Every year any number of contests are held around the USA to find the biggest and the best looking.
Pumpkins carved for Halloween are known as Jack-O-Lanterns. That practice began when Irish and other immigrants with Celtic roots came to America. In Ireland and elsewhere in Europe, people would carve creative faces and religious designs out of potatoes or turnips. Once they came to America, immigrants found the amazing pumpkin to be a larger and better prospect for carving. More importantly, they found that the carved out material made for excellent soup, pie and other delicious culinary creations.
Today, people have developed a taste for pumpkin that has been unmatched in history. Every fall we see pumpkin flavored coffees, ice cream, pudding, custard, shakes, pies, cup cakes, rolls, breads, spreads and butters, and all sorts of restaurant dishes devoted to this amazing gourd. People have developed delicious home recipes as well which include pumpkin flavored macaroni and cheese, chocolate-cheese-pecan enhanced pumpkin pies-cakes-muffins, pumpkin and lentil stews and soups, pumpkin scones and even pumpkin brownies to name a few.
It might surprise you to know that pumpkins are a healthy choice. A one cup serving of cooked pumpkin without any additional ingredients added to it is just about fifty calories. That makes it more acceptable for calorie conscious dieters than other foods like potatoes, sweet potatoes or even eggplant. Pumpkins provide a moderate amount of fiber, potassium, vitamin A and lutein for your daily diet. Because pumpkins contain fiber, they can actually make you feel full instead of encouraging your appetite so that you eat more.
There are several different types of pumpkins and Connoisseurs know them all. All I know is what I see, but experts tell us there are important differences in terms of usage. They say that the Cucurbita Moschata is good for cooking, the Cucurbita Pepo variety make excellent candidates for Jack-O-Lantern and other carving uses, the Cucurbita Maxima are the big boys that always win the ‘biggest pumpkin’ contests and the Cucurbita Mixta include those little guys that we let our kids draw on and place around the larger carved pumpkins during the Halloween season.
The pumpkin is kind of a crazy looking gourd to begin with, so it should not surprise you that people have found a lot of crazy (or at least seemingly strange) ways to use them. Each year there is a ‘pumpkin boat’ competition. People make boats that actually float from giant pumpkins and the ones judged to float and look the best win the top prizes. That’s handy to know if you are ever ship wrecked with a load of giant pumpkins on board!
Leave it to scientists and engineers to find a great way to get rid of left over Halloween pumpkins that were not carved out. Every year they show off their brainpower and technical skills by building amazing devices designed to hurl the gourds to record distances. Also known as Pumpkin Chunking contests, most of the participants in the highbrow ones design and assemble some sort of a gigantic slingshot, pneumatic cannon or catapult and have managed to ‘chunk’ their pumpkins over 5,000 feet. In less intellectual circles, people take part in pumpkin throwing, chunking and smashing contests which depend more on raw physical power than physics. Winners often sarcastically receive a pumpkin pie in the face and a small cash prize.
Although it is easy to make light of pumpkins, there are more than a few cosmetic companies that are now taking notice of their ability to last so long after being harvested before beginning to rot. Pumpkin based natural face creams in various forms are now available for sale from some of the biggest names in cosmetics. Each year these creams gain more popularity and actually have celebrity followings among the Hollywood crowd. I love pumpkin pie, but bow to those who find so many other uses for this amazing gourd including smearing its insides on your face.