This autumn, take a look around you and you’ll see pumpkins everywhere in fields, on farm stands and in store window displays, heralding the start of fall and its holidays. Pumpkin plant shells make decorative lanterns at Halloween time, and their pulp becomes the traditional Thanksgiving pie.
The Field Pumpkin plant is a member of the gourd family that includes such squashes as crookneck, straightneck, zucchini, acorn and marrow. The species name (Cucurbita pepo L.) for the pumpkin comes from the Greek word pepon, meaning “sun ripened.”
When the first explorers arrived in America, they noticed the pumpkin plant in the cultivated maize fields of the Indians. The natives, they discovered, utilized the plant for medicine as well as food. Members of the Yuba tribe used an emulsion made from a mixture of pumpkin seeds and watermelon seeds to heal wounds. The Catawba tribe ate fresh or dried pumpkin seeds as a kidney medicine, while the Menomonee drank a mixture of water, powdered squash and pumpkin seeds to ease the passage of urine. In settler folk medicine, the ground stems of pumpkin plants were brewed into a tea to treat “female ills,” and the ripe pumpkin seeds were made into a palatable preparation to dispel worms. Modern folk healers still advocate pumpkin seeds as a means of ridding the body of intestinal worms and use pumpkin seed oil as a treatment for burns and wounds.
Today, aside from its ornamental uses, pumpkin is also a main ingredient in many nutritious, delicious foods such as pumpkin pie, pumpkin soup and even pumpkin seeds. Try our fool-proof recipe:
Crunchy Roasted Pumpkin Seeds
1. Wash the stringy matter off of the seeds under cold water
2. Blot the pumpkin seeds dry between paper towels
3. Spread the seeds out on a cookie sheet in a single layer, not touching each other
4. Sprinkle the seeds with salt and put them in an oven preheated to 350 degrees
5. Roast the pumpkin seeds for 30 minutes to an hour, checking them often
6. They are done when dry and light brown
7. Let cool and serve
*Note: Cooking time will depend on the size and wetness of the seeds
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