Pumpkins are part of the family of winter squash. During the fall it is not unusual to see pumpkins providing folksy landscape ornamentation, reflecting an eerie Jack-o-lantern face during the night, or gracing the table as a meal, dessert or libation. Let’s not forget the whistling of pumpkins as they are hurled through the sky in the annual punkin chunkin competitions. Last year the longest pumpkin chuck during the annual WCPCA (World Championship Punkin Chuckin Association) event, 4,694.68 feet, was made by American Chunker, Inc. The event planned for Oct. 24-26, 2014 at Dover International Speedway has been postponed and will be held on Nov. 6-8, 2015. Entrants such as American Chunker, Inc, Chucky 3, Pumpkin Punisher, Little Big Gun, Chunk Norris, and Chunkbuster will be competing for glory at the WCPCA championships.

Moonshine Pumpkins

Credit: UNH

At present there are about 100 varieties of pumpkins available to grow from seed. One of the leading developers of new varieties is Dr. Brent Loy, Professor Emeritus at the University of New Hampshire. Dr. Loy’s criteria for pumpkin development include color, disease resistance (mostly to powdery mildew), development of strong stems, and ability to grow in a variety of climatic zones. Two recent varieties of pumpkins developed by Professor Loy include the Sunlight (jack –o-lantern) and the Moonshine (white pumpkin). A new world record for largest pumpkin was established October 11, 2013 in Morgan Hill California. The record-holding pumpkin weighed in at 2,032 lbs. Will this record fall in 2014?

Most parts of the pumpkin are edible. Pumpkins contain a lot of fiber, nutrients, and minerals. Pumpkins have essential fatty acids, phytosterols, amino acids, phosphorus, potassium, magnesium, manganese, and calcium. Recent research has shown that the proteins found in pumpkins can control some yeasts and fungi; scientists may develop a tonic that can fight yeast infections in humans and perhaps create a natural fungicide to be used in agriculture. Pumpkin seeds and oils are used in medicines to control tapeworms, fight depression, prevent kidney stones, and produce antioxidants. Pumpkins and Jack-o- lanterns have appeared or been mentioned in a number of books and movies. Pumpkins have held a starring role in Cinderella, (pumpkin as carriage), Harry Potter movies, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, and of course the Great Pumpkin episode of the Peanuts Halloween cartoon.

Article by FCFCDB member

Nature Note for 10/26/14