Looks like our BFF has arrived (can I get a collective ‘Amen’ here) which means it’s time to
welcome the weekend celebrate the beauty Mother Nature. As always, we’re joining our friends, Rosy and her brothers over at LLB in our Backyard. Since Halloween is just around the corner, let’s feature one of the iconic symbols for this time of year, the beautiful orange pumpkin. Did you know the word pumpkin originally was derived from the word pepon, the Greek word for “large melon,” or something round and large. The French adapted the word to “pompon,” and the British referred to it as “pumpion.” It’s not a stretch to see how American colonists came to simply call it “pumpkin.”
The term pumpkin itself has no agreed upon botanical or scientific meaning, used and is often interchangeably referred to as “squash” or “winter squash.” In North America and the UK, pumpkin generally refers to only certain round orange varieties of winter squash, predominantly derived from Cucurbita pepo (Australian English notes it as winter squash of any appearance). As a warm-weather crop, seeds are generally planted in July and are generally quite hardy. The plants produce both a male and female flower and must be fertilized, usually by bees.
Pumpkins are one of the oldest domesticated plants, having been cultivated as early as 7,500 to 5,000 BC. Pumpkin pie is often a staple in both Canadian and US Thanksgiving Day feasts though pumpkins used in pie fillings are different from varieties used to carve Jack-o-lanterns for Halloween. In 2017, over 1.5 billion pounds of pumpkins were produced in the US with the top pumpkin-producing states being Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and California.
Several of our neighbors plant pumpkins on that little strip of ground between the sidewalk and the street (affectionately known as the ‘hell strip’ in these parts) and are frequently noshed on by squirrel thugs who seem to treat them as a fast food drive-through. Those gigantic pumpkins (Cucurbita maxima) you sometimes see were developed from South American large squash varieties through efforts of botanical societies and pumpkin enthusiasts.
Nutritionally speaking, pumpkins are versatile and most parts of the plant are edible. Canned pumpkin (not filling) is often recommended by vets as a dietary supplement for dogs and cats for digestive ailments such as constipation, diarrhea, or hairballs. It’s a mainstay around the Ranch for keeping canine tummies content. Elsa in particular, is a connoisseur of the orange fleshy pureé. The high fiber content aids with good digestion. Did you know raw pumpkin is often fed to poultry, as a supplement to their regular feed, during the winter to help maintain egg production, which usually drops off during cold months. Pumpkin seeds are a good source of protein, magnesium, copper and zinc for peeps and are a delicious and low calorie snack.
I don’t know about you, but with pumpkin pie season getting started, maybe it’s time to start thinking about stocking up on whipped cream.
Here’s hoping the weekend weather allows you to get out and enjoy some classic aspects of autumn nature. Me personally…I think I’m going to follow this truck.
Live, love, bark! 🐾