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Pumpkins Aren't Just for Scary Faces: Pumpkin Nutrition, Uses, Recipe ... and Some Interesting Lore

Nothing says "Fall" like a visit to a pumpkin patch, and picking out a few pumpkins to decorate your home, carve into Jack-o-Lanterns and use to make pumpkin pie.


Morton, Illinois, where Nestlé/Libby's pumpkin-packing plant processes over 80% of the world's canned pumpkin, is known as "The Pumpkin Capital of the World." They celebrate every year with their annual pumpkin festival.

This year, you can dazzle your friends with the interesting pumpkin facts that we've uncovered, or at the very least give your children a great history lesson as you search for the perfect pumpkin this year.

A Bit of Pumpkin History

Pumpkins originated in Central America, and seeds from pumpkin-like plants found in Mexico have been traced back to 5500 B.C.

The word "pumpkin" actually came from "pepon," which means "large melon" in Greek. The French then turned "pepon" into "pompon," and the English further changed it into "pumpion." American settlers, it's said, changed the word to the familiar "pumpkin," as we know it today.

Native Americans were already growing pumpkins when the American colonists got here. They used pumpkin in stews, soups, and desserts, and even dried the pumpkin shells, then cut them into strips to weave into mats.

"Pumpkin pie" first came about when the settlers removed the top from a pumpkin, took out the seeds and filled it up with milk, spices and honey. The pumpkin was then baked in hot ashes, and the resulting pumpkin pudding was eaten (it's not known whether they learned this technique from the Native Americans).

The pudding probably tasted a lot like the pumpkin pie filling we know today.

Are Pumpkins Healthy?


The largest pumpkin pie ever baked was in 2003 and weighed 418 pounds. The largest pumpkin ever grown was 1,337 pounds, grown by Charles Houghton of New Boston, New Hampshire.

In a word, yes! Pumpkins belong to the winter squash family, along with seasonal favorites like butternut squash, acorn squash, hubbard squash and turban squash.

They're rich in a variety of nutrients including vitamin A (in the form of beta-carotene), vitamin C, potassium, fiber, manganese, folate, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin B1, copper, vitamin B6, niacin-vitamin B3 and pantothenic acid.

All of these nutrients pack a major nutritional punch, which is why pumpkin offers the following health benefits:

  • Anti-cancer type effects, such as an ability to prevent cell mutations

  • Helps to reduce symptoms of a condition called benign prostatic hypertrophy, or BPH, in men

  • Reduces your risk of lung cancer because it contains beta-cryptoxanthin, an orange-red carotenoid that promotes lung health

Some Ways to Eat Pumpkins, Other Than in Pie

Out of the numerous pumpkin varieties, the sugar pumpkin (aka pie pumpkin) has the most flesh and the sweetest taste, making it the ideal variety for cooking.

Pumpkin can be used like any other squash -- baked, boiled, roasted, mashed, or added to soups and stews.

In the kitchen, pumpkins are most well known for their role in pumpkin pie, but here we've gathered some tasty pumpkin recipes that are so good, you'll want to eat them year-round.

Pumpkin Pasta


  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
  • 1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 lb pumpkin flesh, peeled seeded and diced (use one pumpkin about 1 3/4 lbs)
  • 8 fl oz strong vegetable stock
  • 2 tbsp. parsley, or 1 tsp. dried parsley
  • 4 fl oz single cream
  • 1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • pinch of salt
  • pinch of ground black pepper
  • pasta, freshly cooked, to serve


  1. Gently sauté the garlic and onion in the oil for 3 or 4 minutes. Do not allow them to burn.
  2. Add the pumpkin and vegetable stock and bring to the boil.
  3. Cover and simmer over a medium heat for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the pumpkin is tender.
  4. Break up the pumpkin by beating it with a wooden spoon, and stir in the parsley, cream, nutmeg and seasoning.
  5. Cook for a further minute and add a little of the pasta cooking water if the sauce is too thick.
  6. Pour over the pasta and serve immediately. Serves 3

Spicy Pumpkin Bisque


  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried ground small red chilies such as Piquins
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon butter or margarine
  • 1 16-ounce can pumpkin puree
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 cup half-and-half or light cream
  • 1/4 cup dry sherry
  • grated nutmeg


  1. Sauté the onion and garlic in the butter until they are soft and transparent.
  2. Add the pumpkin, stock, Chile pepper, ground pepper, allspice, sugar, and sherry.
  3. Bring to a boil and cover.
  4. Simmer the soup for 30 minutes.
  5. Place the mixture in a blender and puree until smooth.
  6. Return the soup to the pot, add the half-and-half, and simmer until heated.
  7. Garnish with the nutmeg and serve either hot or cold.

Stew In A Pumpkin Shell


  • 1 large pumpkin
  • Melted butter
  • Sugar
  • 2 large onions, chopped
  • 4 large garlic cloves, chopped
  • Olive oil
  • 3 pounds chuck steak, cubed
  • 1 pound tomatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 3 1/2 pints beef stock
  • 2 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 2 pounds white potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 2 pounds raw pumpkin, cut in chunks
  • 2 cans sweet corn
  • 12 canned yellow peach halves, sliced
  • Syrup from canned peaches

Bouquet garni:

  • 1 heaping teaspoon dried oregano
  • Salt and pepper


  1. To prepare the pumpkin, cut the top to form a lid, angle cutting so the lid will sit on and not fall in. Leave the stem for a handle. Remove the fibers and seeds and discard.
  2. Scoop away most of the solid flesh, leaving a sturdy wall of pumpkin, being careful not to cut through it.
  3. Measure out 2 pounds of the pumpkin flesh for the stew.
  4. Brush the inside of the cleaned pumpkin with melted butter and sprinkle lightly with sugar. Replace the lid and set the pumpkin aside on a baking sheet.
  5. Cook the onion and garlic in a little oil until soft but not browned. Transfer to a large saucepan. Brown the beef in the oil and add it to the onion mixture in the saucepan.
  6. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, half the stock, the bouquet garni, a little salt and plenty of pepper to the meat and onions.
  7. Cover and simmer until the meat is almost cooked. This should take about 1 hour.
  8. At this time, put the pumpkin shell in the oven at 375 degrees. Leave it for 30 minutes, or longer if the walls are thick. But be careful not to collapse the walls. You can use a large casserole as a support for the walls.
  9. Add the sweet potato, potato and pumpkin to the saucepan and cover with more stock.
  10. Return to a boil and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes, or until the meat is tender, the potatoes are cooked, and the liquid is thickened with the dissolved pumpkin.
  11. Stir in the sweet corn and peaches and simmer for another 15 minutes.
  12. Taste, correcting the seasoning and adding a little of the peach syrup.
  13. Remover the bouquet garni and discard.
  14. Ladle the stew into the pumpkin and put back into the oven for 10 to 15 minutes and serve. Makes 6 to 8 servings.

Recipes from

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