Interesting Facts about Pumpkins

Pumpkins are everywhere this time of year and will be around for the next few weeks until Thanksgiving. Did you know that

• botanically speaking, pumpkins are actually fruits? We eat the ripe fruit and seeds.

• the word “pumpkin” has no botanical meaning? What we think of as pumpkins are actually members of the squash family (the Cucurbitaceae family)

• the original jack o’lanterns were made of turnips? People in Scotland and Ireland used them to ward off evil spirits on Halloween. Turnips were scraped out and candles were placed within. Families brought the tradition to our country, but pumpkins were more plentiful and substituted for turnips. We are still appreciating the fact that pumpkins are easier to scrape out and carve than turnips!

• according to the Farmer’s Almanac, Illinois grows the most pumpkins of any state. harvesting over 12,000 acres of pumpkins each year.

• pumpkins were grown as a farm crop by Mayans dating back to 7000 B. C. They originated in Central America and Mexico.

• pumpkins are monoecious—(mono ee shus) that is, they have both male and female flowers on the same plant. (Other plants like hollies, have separate male and female plants—they are dioecious (dye oh ee shus)

• when the female flower is pollinated and fertilized, it forms a fruit. The male flower does not form fruit, but provides the pollen to fertilize the females. This is something to remember for new gardeners—the male flowers are typically earlier than females and will not form fruit!

If you would like to grow your own pumpkins next year, plan to sow your seeds around June 15, after the ground has warmed up. The vines need plenty of room to run, depending upon the variety you choose.

We are planning 2013 fruit and vegetable gardens beginning now!

Pumpkin with bunny

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