12 Things You Didn't Know About Pumpkins

Pumpkins haven't always been as popular as they are today. In fact, pumpkins were hardly eaten by people for a considerable part of the 19th century. Hard to believe considering pumpkin spice seems take over our taste buds every fall season. No food is above a little help from pumpkin spice: Pumpkin flavored yogurt, coffee, candies, and even English muffins are cropping up on our supermarket shelves.

This fall season while you snack on your artisanal pumpkin [insert food here]; consider the facts about this versatile, tasty treat to discover how pumpkins went from the bottom to the food chain to the top of fall food trends over the past several hundred years.

45 Different Varieties of Pumpkins

While the round orange pumpkin is the most recognizable pumpkin, pumpkins come in many different shapes, sizes, and colors. Some of the cleverly named pumpkin varietals include, Halloween in Paris from France, Cinderella (the varietal cultivated by the Pilgrims), and Wee-Be-Little a miniature pumpkin varietal.

For a pumpkin recipe that celebrates the diverse varietals of this gourd try this Apple Pumpkin Soup recipe.

Irish Jack-O-Lanterns

The tradition of carving pumpkins originated in Ireland. The Irish would carve jack-o-lanterns out of turnips to scare away evil spirits during the Celtic holiday Samhain, the night when spirits of the dead would walk the earth.

Looking for something to do with the leftover pulp from your jack-o-lantern? Try this Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bread recipe.

October = Pumpkin Month

80 percent of the pumpkin crop in the U.S. is available during October. That is roughly 800 million pumpkins out of the 1 billion pumpkins grown in the U.S. each year.

To celebrate the peak of pumpkin harvest season, try this tasty fall Pumpkin Seed Brittle recipe.

“Pumpkin Capital” of the World

Morton, Illinois is the self-proclaimed pumpkin capital of the world. Illinois is one of the largest producers of pumpkin in the United States with 90 to 95 percent of its crop being used for processed pumpkin foods.

For a simple pumpkin recipe, try this Pumpkin Pancakes recipe that uses canned pumpkin.

Pumpkin Seeds

Pumpkin seeds contain more protein than peanuts and are a wonderful roasted with spices or salt. Sprinkle pumpkin seeds on top of salads or eat as a snack on their own.

Save the seeds of your pumpkin for a healthy snack, like this recipe for Wasabi Soy Pumpkin Seeds.

Pumpkins are 90 Percent Water

Admittedly, this is less of a surprising fact when you consider that pumpkins come from the same family as the watermelon and cucumber.

Try one of these pumpkin flavored cocktail recipes that are anything but watery.

Pumpkins are a Fruit

Pumpkins are a squash and a member of the gourd family, the same family as melons, cucumbers, and zucchini. While technically a fruit, pumpkins are generally treated as a vegetable in most recipes.

Try this simple Pumpkin Gratine recipe, which celebrates the savory qualities of this most unconventional fruit.

Pumpkins are Grown on 6 of the 7 Continents

Pumpkins are native to Mexico, but are grown on every continent except Antarctica.

Americans love pumpkin, but so do the people on the other 6 continents that choose to grow pumpkins. In celebration of the pumpkin's multicultural popularity try this Italian-inspired Pumpkin Lasagna with Rosemary Ricotta recipe.

Survival Food

Colonial Americans relied on the hearty pumpkin crop for nourishment, and used it as a replacement food for European staples that were not readily available in their new home. Once trade and shipping with Europe was well-established and reliable in the 19th century, the pumpkin nearly disappeared from the American diet. Instead, the pumpkin was used to feed livestock.

The early American settlers from England used this crop as a grain substitute often pairing pumpkin with corn. Try this Quinoa-Stuffed Sugar Pumpkin recipe, which pairs hearty grains with rich pumpkin for a healthy meal.

The First Pumpkin Pie

While you can't say pumpkin pie without thinking about Thanksgiving, pumpkin pie probably wasn't even on the pilgrims menu. The early settlers tended to use pumpkin in savory dishes as a grain substitute. Pumpkin pie was derived from the popular dish which involved removing the seeds of the pumpkin and filling the whole pumpkin with spices, milk, and honey before cooking the pumpkin directly on the hot ashes of a fire.

Try this Old-Fashioned Pumpkin Pie recipe at Thanksgiving.

The Literary Pumpkin

Of course, Cinderella's pumpkin carriage comes to mind when you think of this gourds appearance in your favorite stories, but pumpkins also appear in Washington Irving's "The Legend of Sleepy Hallow" and Shakespeare's "Merry Wives of Windsor."

Try this Savory Pumpkin Toaster Pastry, which calls for either fairytale or Cinderella pumpkin.

World’s Heaviest Pumpkin

According to the Genius World Records, Beni Meier of Ludwigsburg, Germany set the record in 2014 for growing the heaviest pumpkin, which weighed 2323 pounds.

What would you make with all that pumpkin? Try on of these 10 Great Pumpkin Recipes.