January 21, 2005

Pumpkin Facts

• The pumpkin is actually a fruit. It is, however, related to the cucumber.

• The largest pumpkin ever grown weighed 1,458 lb (661 kg) and was grown by Bruce Whittier from Henniker, New Hampshire. It was of the variety "Dill's Atlantic Giant," which was developed by Canadian breeder Howard Dill.

• Pumpkins are orange because they contain massive amounts of lutein, alpha- and beta-carotene. These nutrients turn to vitamin A in the body.

• Using pumpkins as lanterns at Halloween is based on an ancient Celtic custom brought to America by Irish immigrants. All Hallows Eve on October 31st marked the end of the old Celtic calendar year, and on that night hollowed-out turnips, beets and rutabagas with a candle inside were placed on windowsills and porches to welcome home spirits of deceased ancestors and ward off evil spirits and a restless soul called “Stingy Jack - hence the name "Jack O’ Lantern".

• The town of Keene, New Hampshire currently holds the world record for the most lit pumpkins in one location.

• 90% of all pumpkins sold in the United States are used for Jack O’ Lanterns.

• In colonial New Haven, Connecticut, cut pumpkins were used as guides for haircuts to ensure a round, uniform style. Because of this fashion, New Englanders were nicknamed "pumpkin-heads."

• Illinois produces more pumpkins than any other state in the United States.

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