At this time of year, pumpkins are great for decoration, as well as being cooked into soups, pies and breads.

References to pumpkin date back many centuries. The name "pumpkin" originated from the Greek word "pepon," which means "large melon." They originated in Central America. Native Americans used the seeds for food and medicine. They also dried strips of pumpkins and wove them into mats.

In the past, pumpkins were recommended for removing freckles and curing snakebites. Today we know they are a good source of potassium and vitamin A. Pumpkins are 90 percent water and their flowers are edible. They are members of the vine crops family called cucurbits, which also includes watermelons.

The tradition of pumpkin-carving originally started with the carving of turnips. When the Irish immigrated to the U.S., they found pumpkins aplenty and they were much easier to carve for their ancient holiday.

The original pumpkin pie occurred when a colonist sliced off the pumpkin top, took out the seeds and filled it with milk, spices and honey. The pumpkin was then baked in hot ashes.

The largest pumpkin pie ever made was over 20 feet in diameter and weighed over 3,699 pounds in New Bremen, Ohio, on Sept. 25, 2010. It used 1,212 pounds of canned pumpkin, 525 pounds of sugar, 233 dozen eggs, 109 gallons of evaporated milk, 14.5 pounds of cinnamon and 7 pounds of salt, and took over 10 hours to bake.

Pumpkins range in size from less than 1 pound to over 2,000 pounds. In 2016, a Belgium man broke the world record for the largest pumpkin ever grown, with a whopper weighing in at 2,624 pounds.

Growing 800- to 1,000-pound pumpkins has become great entertainment in many areas of the country. Purchasing special hybrid giant pumpkin seeds and following a list of specific cultural practices are necessary for growing large pumpkins. On the internet, there is a whole society of people willing to share their growing tips for giant pumpkins.

Every pumpkin grower feels the urge to grow a giant pumpkin at least once in their lives. Chances are, you’ll be hooked for life.

Roger Williams is agriculture educator for the Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service in Cherokee County.

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