Halloween

pumpkin

This is of course in honour of Halloween. So, etymology. The word pumpkin comes from ‘pepon’, which is Greek for ‘large melon’. The French changed this to ‘pompon’, which we then changed to ‘pumpion’. Then at some point American colonists changed it to ‘pumpkin’.

The term ‘pumpkin’ doesn’t have an agreed botanical or scientific meaning. So it can refer to basically any kind of winter squash-type vegetable.

Some pumpkin facts for you (feel free to use these to bore any trick or treaters tonight).

  • The oldest pumpkin seeds were found in Mexico and are believed to date from between 7000 and 5500 BC.

  • According to www.giantpumpkin.com, the record for the largest pumpkin is 2,624 pounds. It was grown in 2016 by a surprisingly attractive Belgian man called Mathias Willemijns, and weighed a whopping 300 pounds more than the previous winner.

  • Although you might think it’s an American tradition, carving pumpkins for Halloween originated from an Irish myth about a man named ‘Stingy Jack’. To cut a long legend short, Stingy Jack is a drunkard who attracts Satan’s attention because of all his drinking and general bad-deed-doing. Through various shenanigans and trickery Jack manages to get away from the devil, so much so that when he dies, he ends up wandering the world, doomed never to be able to enter heaven or hell. And the only thing that lights his way is an ember inside a hollowed-out turnip. At some point turnips were superseded by pumpkins, apparently for the only reason that they’re easier to carve.

  • Pumpkin chucking (also called punkin chunkin and pumpkin chunking), is the ‘sport’ of throwing pumpkins as far as possible using mechanical things including slingshots, catapults, trebuchets and pneumatic cannons (I don’t know what a ‘pneumatic canon’ is but I want one). The record is 5,545.43 feet (1,690.25 meters). Unfortunately the last event in 2017 ended in a lawsuit (someone got hit in the head), so the future of punkin chunkin is uncertain. Shame.