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Pumpkins prove to be versatile


We roast, toast, carve, paint, smash, launch, gut, bake and decorate this fruit. It really is a versatile thing, pumpkin. The winter squash we know and love today is no new thing, although we have come up with some interesting uses for them in our present day. I’ve seen pumpkin catapults and pumpkin bungee launchers, at some fall festivals. These have been around for centuries and centuries. It is one of the oldest domesticated plants in North America, though primarily used as a food source in those times.

There are hundreds of pumpkins varieties and there are quite a few species of pumpkins, also known as winter squash. There are small and there are gigantic pumpkins, in 2021 there was a new Indiana state record size pumpkin grown in Spencer. It was a whopping 1,979 pounds. Imagine trying to set that on the dining room table for Thanksgiving.

Fun facts about pumpkins:

• Indiana and Illinois are some of the nation’s largest pumpkin producers, Indiana grows about 6,000 acres of pumpkins.

• Pumpkins need bees to pollinate their flowers. Without the bees, there would be no pumpkins.

• Every single part of a pumpkin is edible: the skin, leaves, flowers, pulp, seeds and stems.

• They are about 90% water, but rich in Vitamin A and Vitamin C.

• The practice of carving Jack-o’-Lanterns was brought to America by Irish immigrants. In their homeland, the Irish used to carve potatoes or turnips, but upon arrival in America, they began to use pumpkins instead because they were far easier to carve. The tradition stems from an Irish legend about a man named Stingy Jack who was known for playing tricks on people.

• Compostable — Take to yard waste or compost on your own at home after Halloween.

Pumpkin activities:

• Painting —  Slightly less messy than carving. Acrylic paint works best.

• Carving — Choose a softer skinned and light weight pumpkin, they are easier to carve and carry.

• Roast the seeds — Remove seeds from the pumpkin. Clean with water and boil in salt water for about 10 minutes. One quart of water and two tablespoons of salt to every two cups of seeds. Drain the seeds and lightly dry with a paper towel. Heat oven to 325 degrees Farenheit. Spread seeds on a baking sheet, drizzle with 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil, and sprinkle with salt to taste. Roast seeds for about 10 minutes.

• Bake — Choose a pie or sugar variety, they have the best taste. Pumpkin flesh is quite hard and can be tricky to cut safely. One way around this difficulty is to bake the pumpkin whole on a baking sheet until it is soft and easier to cut. To do this, prick holes in the pumpkin first and bake at 350 degrees Farenehit for about 1 hour. Once soft, allow the pumpkin to cool, cut it in half, remove the seeds and stringy pith with a spoon, then scoop the orange or yellow flesh from the skin. This cooked flesh can be used whenever pumpkin puree is called for: pumpkin pie, pumpkin soup, pumpkin bread.

Go get your porch decorations, dinner, dessert, science experiment or your kids’ activity knowing you are supporting local agriculture.


Tricia Herr is the Montgomery County Extension Educator, Ag and Natural Resource. The office is at 400 Parke Ave., Crawfordsville; 765-364-6363. She may be reached by email at triciaherr@purdue.edu.