I just made ZeGreatest discovery! You know those orange spheres that are piling up in farmers’ markets and grocery stores? They’re pumpkins! Okay, you probably already knew this, but pumpkins are totally new to me. (Give me a break: I’m a zebra!)
I always figure the best way to find out about something you never knew existed is to do a little detective work. My favorite farmers, food historians and librarians were happy to help out. I even asked a couple of dogs, since if they like something, you KNOW it’s going to be cool.
I found out that pumpkins are members of the squash-and-gourd family (it’s always fun to have family, don’t you think?). Some people think pumpkins are vegetables, but they’re actually fruits. You can tell because fruits almost always have seeds on the inside (although berries like to be different and have them on the outside). If you’ve ever scooped the squishy guts out of a pumpkin, you know they have LOTS of seeds.
You might think from their bright orange color that pumpkins give you tons of energy — and you’d be right. They’re loaded with natural sweetness and awesome nutrients like beta-carotene, vitamin C, potassium and fiber. Crunchy roasted pumpkin seeds are packed with good-for-you stuff like protein, B vitamins, iron and vitamin E.
The kind of pumpkins that are best for eating are known as “sugar pumpkins” (they taste super-sweet). Farmers also grow special pumpkins that are great for carving, which are called “jack-o’-lantern pumpkins.”
Humans are pretty smart – they’ve been growing and eating pumpkins for thousands of years. They’re native to Central America, but have been grown in North America for centuries (archaeologists have found bits of pumpkin in ancient cliff dwellings in the American Southwest).
Native Americans made use of the pumpkin harvest in all sorts of cool ways – from drying pumpkin strips for weaving into mats to roasting pumpkins for food.
When the pilgrims arrived in New England in 1620, Native Americans shared their pumpkin knowledge with their new friends. They taught settlers how to make what would eventually become pumpkin pie – and a Thanksgiving favorite!
Here’s what they did: pilgrims cut the top off the pumpkin, removed the seeds and filled the hollow inside with milk, spices and honey. They put the lid back on the pumpkin and roasted it in the embers of a dying fire. This created sweet, spicy pumpkiny goodness that later became the filling for today’s pumpkin pie.
Pumpkins’ name comes from the Greek word “pepon,” which means a large melon. The English word was “pompion” until about 1640, when people decided “pumpkins” sounded like more fun.
I think so too, so I decided to learn even more about pumpkins at a super-fun festival in Half Moon Bay, California — the Pumpkin Capital of the World. My friend Farmer Mike told me that the largest pumpkin he’s carved at the festival is about the size of a Volkswagen (but you can’t drive it)!
Hungry for pumpkins? Here’s a colonial rhyme: “We have pumpkin at morning and pumpkin at noon. If it were not for pumpkin, we should be undoon!”
If you feel the same way, try the Pumpkin Power Porridge from my buddy Jennifer Wickes (recipe below).
Want it at noon? Instead of having chips with your lunch, try some roasted pumpkin seeds. You’ll find an easy recipe from Chow Bella Kids just underneath the porridge recipe.
This should give you more than enough fun fuel for a happy and healthy fall!
Recipe: Pumpkin Power Porridge
As you can see, this recipe makes enough to power up your whole family. If you just want a bit of pumpkin power for your own breakfast, a super-quick and easy option is to stir about 1/4 cup pumpkin puree and a little brown sugar and cinnamon into a bowl of cooked oatmeal.
What you need:
1 1/2 cups quinoa, cooked (ask an adult for help)
1 1/2 cups Steel Cut Oats, cooked (ask an adult for help)
3/4 cup soy milk
3/4 cup pumpkin puree (fresh or canned)
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
3 tablespoons agave nectar
1/2 cup walnuts, optional
1/2 cup dried cranberries, optional
What you do:
Mix all ingredients thoroughly together and serve.
If you like hot cereal: mix the ingredients, heat gently on the stove (ask an adult for help with this) and enjoy!
Makes 6 servings
Recipe: Yummy Roasted Pumpkin Seeds
What you need:
Seeds from 1 large pumpkin
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
What you do:
Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.
Scoop the seeds out of your pumpkin, then rinse off the slippery pulp.
Toss with olive oil and salt.
Spread the seeds evenly on an ungreased baking sheet.
Bake until dry and crispy – about 45 minutes.