Pumpkins are a symbol of fall, autumn, the harvest season, and family memories. As a little girl, our family would go to the pumpkin farm each year to pick out a pumpkin to carve for Halloween. With 5 kids in the family, we each had to carry our own pumpkin. This meant, as we grew, the size of our pumpkin grew. This wonderful fruit brings fond memories to mind.
Just where did the pumpkin come from? Pumpkins were first found in the area of Central America and Mexico. Native Americans carried pumpkins seeds into other parts of North America. They cut pumpkins into long strips and roasted them over a fire. They also wove dried strips of pumpkin into mats. The Native Americans ate pumpkin seeds and also used them for medicine. Columbus took pumpkin seeds back to Europe, but they did not grow well there. Jacques Cartier, a French explorer, found pumpkins in what is now part of Canada is 1584.
The Illinois Education Extension Center states that pumpkin originated from the Greek word for “large melon” which is “pepon.” “Pepon” was nasalized by the French onto “pompon.” The English changed “pompon” to “Pumpion.” Shakespeare referred to the “pumpion” in his Merry Wives of Windsor. Spruce Eats states that the pumpkin is a variety of winter squash, a member of the gourd family, and comes in a variety of sizes, shapes, and colors. The fruit grows on vines and is ready for harvested in early autumn. Only the small to medium size pumpkins known as sugar or pie pumpkins are for cooking and eating. The larger ones however are what we all commonly know as the jack o lantern pumpkins and are a fu way to celebrate Halloween. However, large pumpkins can be used as tureens, perfect fort he autumn dinner party. Simply cut off the top, scrape out the insides and heat the inside by filling with boiling water; pour out the hot water and fill with hot soup. Hollowed out pumpkins can also be used as flower vases for autumn parties as well.
Many meals can be cooked inside the pumpkin. If you want to use the pumpkin as the baking dish, a 5-6-pound pumpkin works best. If you are wanting to eat the pumpkin along with the meal inside, use a sugar or pie pumpkin. When the small pie pumpkins are cooked, they resemble spaghetti squash. The pie pumpkin also makes a delicious homemade pumpkin puree. Let’s not forget the pumpkin seeds. Roasted pumpkin seeds are delicious. Pumpkin seeds, also known as pepitas, are nutrient rich. Pumpkins are amazing when we realize the variety of meals and uses for this wonderful comfort fruit.
Here is a recipe to get you started on “Meal in a Pumpkin.” Happy Fall!!
Stuffed Pumpkin Dinner
2 pie pumpkins or 1 larger pumpkin (4-5 total pumpkin weight)
1 teaspoon salt
1 ½ pounds ground beef or ground pork
1 small green pepper, chopped small
1 ½ C. cooked brown or white rice or grain mixture of choice
1 can (8 ounces) tomato sauce
½ C finely chopped cooked ham (optional)
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons oregano
½ teaspoon pepper
½ teaspoon cider vinegar
- Wash Pumpkins whether you are using 1 or 2. Cut a 6-inch circle around the top stem. Remove and set aside. Clean out seeds and loose fibers. Save the seeds to roast. Fill halfway with boiling water and let sit until water is at room temperature. Discard water and dry pumpkin.
- While the hot water is in the pumpkin, make the filling.
- In a large skillet, cook the beef, onion, garlic, and green pepper over medium heat until the meat is no longer pink and the vegetables are tender; drain well. Place in a large bowl and add the rice or grain mixture, tomato sauce, ham, oregano, pepper, and vinegar. Mix well.
- Place mixture in the pumpkin or pumpkins if using 2. Bake at 350 for 1 hour. To serve, either slice and serve filling with a slice of cooked pumpkin or use a tureen and scoop out. Delicious and fun for the family!!