By Vicky Babcock
Nothing says Fall quite so well as the pumpkin! Its bold color and robust texture are characteristic of the season. It is a fall favorite in the U.S., selling over 1 billion pounds annually in its relatively short season. Over 90 percent of our nation’s processed pumpkin comes from the State of Illinois, with a majority (85 percent) being processed for sale with the Libby’s ® label. Most Americans today have never made a pumpkin pie that has not come out of a can.
Pumpkin popularity grew enormously in the U.S with the advent of the Jack o’ Lantern, a tradition brought over by Irish immigrants, who used carved turnips in their home country as lanterns to chase away evil spirits. According to legend, Jack tricked the Devil into agreeing to never claim his soul. When Jack died, the Devil gave him a lit coal to light his way in the afterlife. Jack placed the coal in a turnip and became known as “Jack o’ the Lantern.”
Pumpkins, as other squashes, are native to America and Native Americans grew and harvested them for centuries. It was one of a group of crops known as the “three sisters” and was grown in conjunction with corn and beans. The corn stalk provided a pole for the beans to grow, while the pumpkin covered the ground, providing cover to deter weeds and to keep the soil moist. The Iroquois legend of the three sisters speaks of a Sky woman who fell to Earth, becoming the first woman on Earth. Being with child, she gave birth to a daughter who in turn, gave birth to twins by the West Wind. The woman died in childbirth and the children buried her; from the ground where she lay, sprouted corn, beans and pumpkins, which served as the main food staples of the Iroquois.
While pumpkins are most popular here as a carving base these days, the fruit is loaded with nutritional value. Pumpkins are high in vitamin A and beta carotene; the seeds are high in protein and rich in a highly nutritious, flavorful oil. The flowers and the leaves are edible and considered a delicacy in some countries.
Some little known facts: pumpkins are used as a feed for livestock; the raw fruit can be used as a supplement to chickens during the winter to aid in egg production; the biggest pumpkin on record weighed in at a whopping 2009 pounds; Columbus brought the first pumpkins back to Europe from the New World; the largest pumpkin pie ever made was over five feet in diameter and weighed over 350 pounds; canned pumpkin (not pie filling) has been recommended by veterinarians as a supplement for dogs and cats experiencing ailments such as constipation, diarrhea or hairballs.
Still not convinced that you should buy a pumpkin? Consider pumpkin chucking. A competitive sport in which teams build devices to throw a pumpkin as far as possible.
Crustless Pumpkin Pie
1 32oz can of pumpkin
1 12oz can of evaporated milk
3 teaspoons pumpkin pie mix
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cups sugar
1 box yellow cake mix
1 stick butter
Pecans to scatter on top as desired.
Mix pumpkin, evaporated milk, eggs, pumpkin pie mix, salt and sugar in bowl. Pour in 13”x9” cake pan. Cover with 1 box of Yellow Cake mix. Scatter pecans on top. Melt butter and drizzle over the top. Bake at 400 for about 40 minutes.
Fresh Market is brought to you by Solon Market located at 15185 Algoma Avenue. For more information call 616-696-1718. Like us on facebook for updates.
Note: Solon Market will be closed October 5 for Red Flannel Festival. We will be open again the following week.