October 15, 2012

Humans like to eat all kinds of pumpkin things this time of year, but animals like to eat pumpkins, too! iStockphoto/Thinkstock (
Courtesy iStockphoto/Thinkstock
Humans like to eat all kinds of pumpkin things this time of year, but we animals like to eat pumpkins, too!

Uzzi and I love this time of year because soon we’ll be eating yummy pumpkins. Pumpkins are loaded with vitamin A and beta-carotene, the USDA says, and we think they just taste good! We goats and the sheep and hens eat lots of pumpkins after Halloween, when growers sell leftover pumpkins cheap. Mom slices raw pumpkins into two pieces, and then we nibble out the meat, pulp and seeds. Yum!

Humans love pumpkins, too. Mom says they’re easy to grow, and they come in lots of interesting and tasty varieties. You can make pumpkins into pies, bread, pancakes, cake, cheesecake, cookies, parfaitspudding and risotto. You can stuff pumpkins with pork or stew them with ham. And how about pumpkin soup or chili? You can even pickle pumpkins if you like. Now there’s a versatile crop!

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The USDA says that in 2011, $113-million worth of pumpkins were grown on 47,300 acres in the top six pumpkin production states: California, Illinois, Michigan, New York, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

It’s pretty interesting, though, that 80 percent of the pumpkins grown in the United States are raised within a 90-mile radius of Peoria in central Illinois. (That’s according to the University of Illinois.) Most of those pumpkins are processed into canned pumpkin and canned pumpkin-pie filling. The town of Morton, near Peoria, is the self-proclaimed Pumpkin Capital of the World.

The Guinness Book of World Records 2012 lists eight pumpkin bests, among them:

  • World’s heaviest pumpkin: Grown by Chris Stevens and presented at the Stillwater Harvest Fest in Stillwater, Minn., on October 9, 2010, this pumpkin weighed 1,810 pounds 8 ounces and measured 15 feet 6 inches in circumference.
  • World’s largest jack o’ lantern: Scott Cully of the Bronx, N.Y., carved it on October 30, 2010, using a pumpkin weighing 1,810 pounds. (You can carve your own jack o’ lantern using theses Hobby Farms pumpkin stencils!)
  • World’s largest pumpkin pie: The New Bremen Giant Pumpkin Growers in New Bremen, Ohio, baked it on October 8, 2005, at the New Bremen Pumpkinfest. It was made using 1,212 pounds of canned pumpkin, 109 gallons of evaporated milk, 2,796 eggs, 7 pounds of salt, 14½ pounds if cinnamon and 525 pounds of sugar. It weighed 2,020 pounds and measured 12 feet 1 inch long.
  • Farthest distance a pumpkin was been thrown: This feat was recorded on September 9, 2010, in Moab, Utah, when a team of men used a pneumatic air cannon to fling a pumpkin 5,545.43 feet.

Why would anyone want to hurl a pumpkin 5,545.43 feet? It’s part of a sport called pumpkin chucking—or punkin’ chunkin’—in which pumpkins are flung great distances using devices as diverse as giant slingshots, air cannons, and ancient siege weapons, like catapults and trebuchets. The World Punkin Chunkin Championship is held each year in Bridgeville, Del, where up to 75 teams participate in an array of classes and divisions. Each team gets three shots, one taken on each of three consecutive days and only their best shot counts. Because pumpkins must remain whole after leaving a device to count, thick-skinned varieties work best.

In addition to their modern-day uses, pumpkins figure in folklore and fiction, like the one Cinderella’s fairy godmother turns into a fancy carriage, Linus’ great pumpkin in the Peanuts cartoon strip and the pumpkin hurled at Icabod Crane by the headless horseman in The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. And students at Hogwart’s School of Witchcraft and Wizardry drink pumpkin juice as a favorite beverage. Hey, I bet I’d like that, too!

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