What is a Pumpkin?

Now before you all look at me like I am insane, yes, I do realize that most everyone knows what a pumpkin is.  At least, they think they know what a pumpkin is.  I actually tried this at Starbucks earlier when I asked a person in line with me what a pumpkin was and they looked at me and just replied that it was a pumpkin.  No lie!  The girl had no idea how to describe to me what a pumpkin was apart from just saying it was a pumpkin.  So this week for Wordy Wednesday,  you all are going to learn what the word means so that you can actually communicate what the autumn favorite actually is should you ever be asked.

Who does not love a good pumpkin pie, carving pumpkins, or drinking delicious pumpkin flavoured beverages?  Well, actually a few people I know do not like them.  I think they are just lying to themselves because pumpkins are delicious.  The word pumpkin, oddly enough, is of Greek origin.  The word is πέπων or pepon.  The word pepon means “large melon”.  Since they are related to other melons.  They come from the plant family Cucurbitaceae with other the other gourds.  This eventually went to the French word pompon.  The British changed that to pumpion and that came over to the Americas where they became known as pumpkins.  

Another thing to note though is that pumpkins are actually not a vegetable.  Yep, you cannot technically count them as a vegetable if you are using a food pyramid.  Pumpkins are from the squash family and as such, they are classified as a fruit, as are all members of the Cucurbitaceae family.  That includes cucumbers, watermelons, cantaloupe, and zucchini.  Pumpkins are a type of winter squash, not to say that they reach full maturity in the fall, rather they are harvested in late autumn. While most are orange, they are sometimes found in other colours.  The most common non-orange pumpkins that I have seen in Oklahoma are green and white.

As strange as it sounds,  a part of me is very proud of the world loving the pumpkin.  Why is that?  The pumpkin, like most other squash, are native to the North American continent!  The oldest, still preserved, record of pumpkins comes from around 6000 B.C. in Mexico.  That record come in the form of preserved seeds.  They had to get those seeds from somewhere.  That would mean that they had to have been planting them to get the seeds.

Now if someone asks you what a pumpkin is you can tell them it is an orange winter squash that originated in Mexico around the 6000 B.C. Until next time everyone!