I have twelve orange pumpkins in my garden (and a couple of green ones). I didn't even plan to raise pumpkins this year! We had a bit of a warm spell in February, when I noticed there were some pumpkin sprouts in the compost pile, from the seeds of last year's Jack O'Lantern (which came from our garden). I rescued the sprouts and potted them up, keeping them safe and warm til May, then transplanted them into the garden. With that head start, the pumpkin crop is already beyond my wildest dreams. What am I going to do with a dozen pumpkins?
Pumpkins have grown in North and Central America for thousands of years. Native Americans used pumpkins for several types of dishes, such as pumpkin bread, soup, and candy. They dried pumpkin flesh and ground it up to preserve it for later use. They even used dried strips of pumpkin shell to weave into mats. The early settlers, including the Pilgrims, made pumpkin pies by removing the seeds and pouring milk, honey, and spices into a pumpkin, then baking it.
More on pumpkins and what they're for, after the jump.
My father told me the story of how his mother would pick pumpkin blossoms and serve them, dipped in batter and fried. Their neighbors got wind of this and brought over bags of groceries for the poor starving family that was reduced to eating flowers. Fried Pumpkin Blossoms are actually a delicacy. There isn't much to the flower itself, but it was an excuse to eat fried batter before funnel cakes became popular.
Pumpkin seeds may be one of the world's healthiest snacks. The components in pumpkin seeds may help prevent arthritis, osteoporosis, and prostate problems. Phytosterols in pumpkin seeds may lower cholesterol and reduce the risk of cancer. Besides eating roasted pumpkin seeds as a snack by itself, you can add pumpkin seeds to stir-fried vegetables, top a salad with them, or grind them up and use as a nutritious food additive.
Pumpkins traveled from America to all parts of the world, where they've become part of other cuisines. Indians make Pumpkin Curries. Pumpkin is a main ingredient in this Fried Ravioli recipe. Thai Pumpkin Soup has some intriguing flavors. You can make a party meal out of a pumpkin, with a bit of time set aside. Mary and Frank made Curried Pumpkin Soup, Stuffed Pumpkin, and Toasted pumpkin Seeds for a group of 12. From one pumpkin.
You don't have to eat a pumpkin to enjoy it. Growing pumpkins has become a competitive activity. The largest pumpkin ever was grown by Ron Wallace in 2006 and weighted 1,502 pounds! However, this is the type of record that seems to be broken every growing season. Someone may have an even bigger monster pumpkin waiting to be measured this autumn. Award-winning pumpkins don't just happen. The tricks of the trade range from digging in the manure to limiting the vine to one pumpkin to performing first aid on a potential winner. The most I ever coddled my pumpkins is to put some pine needles under them to discourage rot.
The largest pumpkin pie ever weighed 2020 pounds (after baking). How did they bake it? They built a custom oven just for the event! This pie required 900 pounds of pumpkin flesh. I may make some pies, but only the standard size.
The first thing many folks think of to do with a pumpkin is to make a Jack O'Lantern for Halloween. The origin of the Jack O' Lantern is an Irish myth about a man nicknamed "Stingy Jack." The story is somewhat involved, but the upshot is that neither God nor the devil wanted to take Jack after he died, so he must wander the earth with a lantern for eternity. The original lantern was an ember in a carved turnip, but a when immigrants brought the story to America, a pumpkin worked just fine. In modern times, Jack O'Lantern carving has turned into an art form.
Some strange things have been done with pumpkins in literature. Peter Peter (the pumpkin eater) kept his wife in a pumpkin shell. Cinderella's fairy godmother turned her pumpkin into a coach, but only til midnight. The headless horseman in The Legend of Sleepy Hollow used a Jack O'Lantern as a reasonable facsimile for his missing head. Jack Pumpkinhead was a character in L. Frank Baum's book The Marvelous Land of Oz and some of the following Oz books.
I could just turn over the pumpkins to my children, but only nine of them, because that would bring to life my favorite memnotic device for remembering the planets. "My very educated mother just served us nine pumpkins." It's no longer valid since Pluto was demoted to dwarf planet status. There are a lot of things you CAN do with a pumpkin. Considering how many I have, there will be a lot of experimenting in my future.
Update from the comments: Marcus suggested any excess pumpkins should go Punkin Chunkin. Jason! found recipes for Roasted Pumpkin in The Shell (with applesauce), and Baked Stuffed Pumpkin (with lots of fruits). Thanks!