I don’t know what it is but at every doorstep during the Halloween season decorations this October will include an actual pumpkin or an image of a pumpkin, not to mention the thousands of pumpkin pies made and served here in New Jersey.
According to an agricultural report from Rutgers University, here in New Jersey, pumpkins cover over 2,500 acres of farmland, and each acre yields about 11 tons of pumpkins per year. That’s a lot of pumpkins. You should know that 100% of all pumpkins grown here in Jersey are all fresh market and are used for consumption or retail purposes. New Jersey is responsible for a little over 5% of the national production.
An amazing 1.5 billion pounds of pumpkins are grown each year here in the United States. 1.5 billion with a B! The largest pumpkin on record tipped the scales at over 2,600 pounds and was grown by a man in Belgium. Can you imagine that pumpkin pie?
What made the pumpkin so popular at Halloween and on our Thanksgiving table? Many people believe that the pumpkin is a vegetable, it’s a fruit, and contrary to Thanksgiving folklore it's not true that the Pilgrims had pumpkin pie at their Thanksgiving table. What they did have was pumpkin beer. Those Pilgrims loved their beer and made it from many fruits and vegetables but pumpkin beer was a Pilgrim fan favorite. It could be because every part of the pumpkin is edible.
The whole idea of carving pumpkins and jack-o-lanterns dates back centuries to Ireland where they would carve squash and potatoes and leave them on the front porch to ward off Stingy Jack who was a trickster and would cause havoc if not fooled, that tradition continued with immigrants here in the United States and the carving of pumpkins became a national pastime.
Speaking of pumpkin pie, comedian Lewis Black had a great bit about pumpkins, he said “Why is it when you cut into a pumpkin it smells like crap but yet it makes a tasty pie?” He’s got a point.
So when you go out and pick your pumpkin for your pie or decorate for Halloween keep in mind the history of this amazing fruit and maybe make a tasty pie or a nice beer!
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The post above reflects the thoughts and observations of New Jersey 101.5 weekend host Big Joe Henry. Any opinions expressed are Big Joe’s own.