Pumpkins are believed to have originated in North America. Seeds from related plants have been found in Mexico dating back to 7000 to 5500 B.C.
References to pumpkins date back many centuries. The name pumpkin originated from the Greek word pepÃµn meaning "large melon". "Pepon" was changed by the French into "pompon." The English changed "pompon" to "Pumpion" and American colonists changed "pumpion" into "pumpkin."
The pumpkin was one of the many foods used by the Native American Indians in the New World and was a welcome discovery by the Pilgrims. The Indians pounded strips of pumpkin flat, dried them and wove them into mats for trading. They also roasted strips of pumpkin on open fires to eat. The early settlers grew pumpkins for food, using them in a wide variety of recipes, from desserts to stews, soups and even beer.
The origin of pumpkin pie is thought to have occurred when the colonists sliced off the pumpkin top, removed the seeds, and then filled it with milk, spices and honey. The pumpkin was then baked in the hot ashes of a dying fire.
Pumpkins and Halloween
The origin of Halloween dates back at least 3,000 years to the Celtic celebration of Samhain (pronounced "sow-ain"). Samhain was simply the name of the festival, a celebration of the harvest, and meant "Summer's End". The festival began at sunset on October 31st and lasted until sunset on November 1st. It was similar to the modern celebration of the New Year.
The original Jack O'Lantern was not a pumpkin. On Hallow's eve, the Irish hollowed out turnips, gourds, potatoes and beets, placing lumps of coal (later to be replaced by candles) inside as a source of light to ward off evil spirits and keep Stingy Jack away.
Irish immigrants brought the tradition of the Jack O'Lantern to America in the 1800s. They quickly discovered that pumpkins were bigger and easier to carve, so they used pumpkins.