The Halloween tradition of carving pumpkins originally began with turnips in Ireland for the ancient holiday. When the Irish immigrated to the United States. they found the native pumpkins to be easier to carve. This fruit has long been an October staple in Michigan, not only as a canvas for scary faces, but for sweet pies, soups and other harvest dishes.
Pumpkins are fairly easy to grow and vary between small, sweet pumpkins for pies to those weight hundreds of pounds. For Halloween, plant pumpkins between late May in the north and early July in the south.
Six of the seven continents can grow pumpkins including Alaska! The seeds do not germinate in cold soil, and the seedlings are injured by frost. Do not plant until all danger of frost has passed, and the soil has thoroughly warmed.
Pumpkins are ready for harvest when its flesh is hard and deep in color, depending on the variety, usually in late September or early October. Once picked, the color will stop developing. Vines will also begin to crack when it’s time for harvest. Be careful of the vine’s prickly texture, and wear gloves. Cut leaving four inches of stem, but do not carry the pumpkin solely by the stem, as it may not support the weight of the fruit.
After removing the pumpkin from the vine, expose it to the sun for ten days to cure, which will harden the skin to prevent moisture loss. If you want to use your pumpkin immediately, there's no need to cure it. Staking pumpkins will promote bruising and rotting, so be careful that the skins do not touch. Discard any pumpkins that show signs of decay. Store in a dry building where the temperature is between 50 and 55°F. They will last for about six months.
Saving your seeds:
Gather the seeds from your pumpkin and rinse off all pulp. Some prefer to soak them overnight in saltwater for extra flavoring. Place them on a screen to dry them, allowing them to air on all sides. Seeds will last for several years if stored properly in a cool area with air but no light.
Pumpkins contain potassium and Vitamin A. Pumpkin flowers are edible.
Pumpkins & Halloween
On this magical night, glowing jack-o-lanterns, carved from turnips or gourds, were set on porches and in windows to welcome deceased loved ones, but also to act as protection against malevolent spirits. Burning lumps of coal were used inside as a source of light, later to be replaced by candles. When European settlers, particularly the Irish, arrived in America they found the native pumpkin to be larger, easier to carve and seemed the perfect choice for jack-o-lanterns.
Did You Know?
- The pumpkin capital of the world is Morton, Illinois, home of the Libby Corporation's pumpkin industry.
- The largest pumpkin ever grown weighed 1,140 pounds, and the largest pumpkin pie was over five feet in diameter and weighed over 350 pounds.
- In early colonial times, pumpkins were used as an ingredient for the crust of pies, not the filling.
- Pumpkins are 90 percent water.
- Historically, pumpkins were recommended for removing freckles and curing snake bites.