Forest Preserve District of Cook County, Illinois
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Nature Bulletin No. 132   November 22, 1947
Forest Preserve District of Cook County
William N. Erickson, President
Roberts Mann, Supt. of Conservation

Pumpkin pie goes with turkey and cranberries as a part of Thanksgiving dinner. In October there were great golden-yellow pumpkins gleaming among the corn shocks in the fields or piled in fat mounds in farmyards and roadside markets. For Halloween we carve funny faces in their thick shells to make Jack-o'-lanterns with lighted candles inside. The pumpkin is peculiarly American.

Farmers plant pumpkins in their corn fields, just as the first settlers found the Indians doing, and feed them to hogs and cattle. The pumpkin vine grows to a length of 20 feet or more, with bristly stems, large leaves and large yellow flowers. Some pumpkins grow as big as a wash tub and weigh more than 50 pounds. In pioneer days they were sliced and hung in strings from cabin roofs to dry for winter use.

Pumpkins and squashes are closely related and both are native American plants, grown thousands of years ago by the Inca and pre- Inca races of ancient Peru, who gave to the world nearly one hundred of our most important food plants, fruits, and medicinal plants. Pottery, in the size and shape of every variety of pumpkin and squash we know, and also their seeds, have been found in the graves and tombs of these ancient people. From such evidence we learn that they also had varieties of squash which have disappeared and are unknown today.

When America was discovered, pumpkins and squash were being cultivated by almost every tribe in the North, Central and South Americas. The Indians used them in soup, boiled them, baked them, made them into cakes which were fried, and dried them for winter use. The seeds, roasted and salted, were a delicacy -- just as they are for some of us today. Both pumpkins and squashes were called "askoot- asquash" by the Algonquin Indians. The word "pumpkin" however, comes from an old French word meaning " ripe; mellow; cooked by the sun" .

".... a crisp and sunny morning of the airy autumn days, is a picture' that no painter has the colorin' to mock -- When the frost in on the punkin and the fodder' s in the shock ."

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