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Pumpkins are not vegetables... they’re fruits!

Pumpkins have been grown in America for over 5,000 years. They are indigenous to the western hemisphere and were completely unknown in Europe before the time of Columbus.

There was probably some kind of pumpkin served at the first Thanksgiving Feast. Pumpkins and other forms of squash made up one leg of the triad maize, beans, and squash -- that once formed the basic diet of American Indians.

Pumpkins are a good source of nutrition. They are low in calories, fat and sodium and high in fiber. They are loaded with vitamins A and B and potassium. The seeds are very high in protein and are an excellent source of B vitamins and iron.

Pumpkins, gourds, and other varieties of squash are all members of the family Cucurbitacae, which also includes cucumbers, gherkins, and melons.

In 1584, the French explorer Jacques Cartier reported from the St. Lawrence region that he had found “gros melons,” which was translated into English as “ponpions,” or pumpkins.

How Pumpkins Grow:

Pumpkins grow in the field on plants which have long sprawling vines that cover the ground. Pumpkin seeds are planted in the field from the last week of May to the middle of June. After seeds are planted, they will sprout (germinate) in 7 to 10 days, depending on the variety. During this time, seeds need moisture and warmth. Once seeds have germinated, they will send up their first leaves, called seed leaves.

Next, the true leaves will appear. Yellow flowers (blossoms) begin to appear after the first three weeks of growth. Male flowers, which produce pollen, are seen first. About a week later, the femal blossoms follow. Female blossoms are easy to spot, because they have tiny pumpkins at their base. Blossoms live for only a half day, and will not open in cold, rainy weather. When both male and female blossoms appear on the vine, bees transfer the pollen from the males to the females. This is called pollination.

Once pollinated, the fruit at the base of the female blossom develops into a full-sized pumpkin. During this time, the plant continues to produce blossoms. The pumpkin contains seeds which can be saved to grow new pumpkins the following year. While growing, pumpkins require a lot of moisture and sunlight. It takes about 90-120 days (depending on the variety) for a pumpkin to grow after it has been planted. Pumpkins are picked in October when they are bright orange in color.