Origin of the word pumpkin: In 1584, French explorer Jacques Cartier visited what’s now Canada and reported seeing grow melons. The French then called them pompions, which means “ripe.” That made its way into English as “pumpkins.”
The whole “carve a scary face into a pumpkin” to make a jack-o-lantern thing began in Ireland hundreds of years ago for the Halloween predecessor holiday called Samhain. Except they didn’t use pumpkins — they used turnips.
There are about 50 different varieties of pumpkin in the world. Some of the more colorfully name ones: Full Moon, Old Zebs, Cotton Candy (it’s white), La Estrella, Cinderella, Little Boo, Atlantic Giant, Wee-Be-Little (it’s tiny), and Halloween in Paris (it comes from France).
Howden Field is the varietal name of the “classic” pumpkin — the large, round, and orange kind.
As luck would have it, October is the time for the pumpkin harvest in the U.S. Of the one billion pumpkins grown in America each year, 80 percent of them are ready to pick in the days leading up to Halloween.
Pumpkin pie is a distinctly American food — colonists used the fruit, abundant in the New World, to make English-style pies. Pumpkin was combined with milk, spices, and honey (but not sugar).
The pilgrims, however, made beer out of pumpkins, combining it with persimmons, hops, and maple sugar.
Two old folk remedies…that don’t work: An application of smashed pumpkin can both cure a snakebite and make freckles disappear.