A Little Slice of Pumpkin History
References to pumpkins date back many centuries. The name pumpkin originated from the Greek word for “large melon” which is “pepon.” The French later changed this to popmpon, followed by the English who changed it to pumpion, and lastly changed to pumpkin by American colonists.
Native Americans dried strips of pumpkin and wove them into mats. They also roasted long strips of pumpkin on the open fire and ate them. The origin of pumpkin pie occurred when the colonists sliced off the pumpkin top, removed the seeds, and filled the insides with milk, spices and honey. The pumpkin was then baked in hot ashes.
Planting & Harvesting
Pumpkins are a warm season plant; therefore they do not germinate in cold soil. In order to have them in time for Halloween, the seedlings can be planted in late May to early June. Wait until the danger of frost has passed.
Direct seed 1 to 1 1/2 inches deep into hills (which warm and drain earlier in the season) or rows. Sow 4 to 5 seeds per hill. Space hills about 4 to 8 feet apart, depending on the size of the vine. (Even some of the mini-fruited pumpkins grow on very large vines.) When the plants are 2 to 3 inches tall, thin to 2 to 3 plants per hill by snipping off unwanted plants without disturbing the roots of the remaining ones. In rows, sow seeds 6 to 12 inches apart in rows 6 to 10 feet apart. Snip off plants to thin to one plant every 18 to 36 inches.
Mulching plants helps retain moisture and suppress weeds. Mounding soil around the base of the plants can discourage squash borers from laying eggs.
Common Problems: Powdery mildew causes a white, powdery mold growth on the upper surfaces of the leaves. The growth can kill the leaves prematurely and interfere with proper ripening. Cucumber beetles and squash bugs attack seedlings, vines and both immature and mature fruits. Be alert for an infestation of cucumber beetles and squash bugs, as populations build in late summer, because these insects can damage the mature fruits, marring their appearance and making them less likely to keep properly.
Pumpkins can be harvested whenever they are a deep, solid color (orange for most varieties) and the rind is hard. If vines remain healthy, harvest in late September or early October, before heavy frosts. If vines die prematurely from disease or other causes, harvest the mature fruit and store them in a moderately warm, dry place until Halloween.
- Today, most pumpkins are sold for decorating and carving.
- Pumpkins are part of a large family of vined plants that includes cucumbers, squashes, gourds, melons, and others. They are all part of the Cucurbitaceae or gourd family. They belong to the group of vegetables known as cucurbits
- Pumpkins are high in fiber and contain potassium and Vitamin A
- Pumpkin flowers are edible
- Pumpkins are 90% water
- Mathias Willemijns of Belgium set the current world record for heaviest pumpkin back in Oct. 2016 weighing in at 2,624 pounds
- According to the 2018 New York State Agriculture Overview there are 5,700 harvested acres of pumpkins, the yield of pumpkins is 82 CWT / Acre, and the value of production in dollars is $8,037,000
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