The Veg Plot

Bunch of Fives: pumpkin

It’s Halloween. And while most sensible citizens will lock themselves in with all lights switched off to pretend they’re not at home, others will roam the streets demanding money from any householder brave enough to open the door. Supermarkets may be well stocked with orange coloured sweets, but kids these days prefer hard cash. And they don’t even wear fancy dress any more.

Some folk with a nostalgic yearning for bygone days might carve out a pumpkin with jagged teeth, two triangular eyes, and… erm… can anyone remember what to do for a nose? So to commemorate this most miserable of annual events, here are five scarily true pumpkin facts…

Take your turnip
In the UK people used to cut shapes out of turnips for Halloween. But greedy British eyes peered across the pond, saw the vast potential of giant pumpkins for carving, and thus relegated turnips to a side dish for haggis.

Cinderella man
The classic story of Cinderella is an ancient folk tale that has been retold for centuries. An early seventeenth century version of the story, ‘Cenerentola’, published by Italian Giambattista Basile in his book ‘Lo cunto de li cunti’ features princes looking for slippers, but it wasn’t until the end of the century the carriage-to-pumpkin plot line was added, by Frenchman Charles Perrault.

All hands to the pumpkin
The earliest evidence of a pumpkin is from Mexico where pumpkin seeds believed to date between 7000BC and 5500BC have been found. Their rise in popularity began in France, before being seized upon by English Tudors and, eventually, gaining popularity throughout their native North America in the nineteenth century.

What a whopper
Pumpkins are a regular feature of giant veg competitions around the world. The heaviest recording of a pumpkin is a gargantuan 1,810 lb 8 oz, grown by a Minnesotan, Chris Stevens, in 2010. You could carve the whole cast of The Munsters out of that.

Pumpkin up the volume
Pumpkin pie is the obvious dish of choice for pumpkin fans, but for those who prefer to drink their cucurbits then pumpkin beer is a must. It’s a popular beverage in America, particularly among home brewers, who like to recreate their favourite pie flavours in alcohol. Just don’t give it to the trick-or-treating kids.

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