By Kevin Biggiani
As you walk or drive through the Oyster Bay- East Norwich neighborhoods, readily visible are bright-orange pumpkins decorating home after home. You’re likely to see pumpkins in other ways, too. Pumpkin festivals, pumpkin pie, pumpkin muffins, pumpkin lattes, pumpkin-flavored coffee, pumpkin-flavored ice cream, and pumpkin soup to name a few pumpkin-themed activities and items. It’s clear that the pumpkin rules supreme in the United States during the fall season.
How did the pumpkin evolve to become such a popular symbol of the fall? The history of the pumpkin is an interesting one. According to The History Kitchen, the pumpkin is believed to have originated in Central America over 7,500 years ago. The original pumpkins were small and very hard with a bitter flavor. The hard shell of the pumpkin was used by the natives of Central America for storage during cold winters when food was scarce. Once the pumpkin migrated to North America, it was grown as food. The pumpkin and its seeds have tremendous nutritional value. Cooked pumpkin can be flavored with butter and spices.
In the United States, a favorite dessert is pumpkin pie, which has become a regular on the Thanksgiving Day dessert table. The History Kitchen explains that in the United States, sweetened pumpkin dishes such as pumpkin pie became the trend during the 1800s. The earliest sweet pumpkin recipes were made from pumpkin shells that had been scooped out and filled with ginger spice milk, then roasted by the fire.
Pumpkin festivals, which are incredibly popular in the United States, date back to 1903. The Circleville Pumpkin Festival in Circleville, Ohio, boasts to be the oldest and largest in the country. There are contests for the largest and most unique looking pumpkins. At the festivals, various pumpkin treats are served such as pumpkin donuts, pumpkin burgers, pumpkin taffy, and pumpkin ice cream.
Here on Long Island, some favorite activities for people of all ages include visiting a farm, going into a field, taking a hay ride, and then picking one’s own pumpkin. At these farms, children may also enjoy pumpkin decorating activities. Old Westbury Gardens has been the host of a popular show called Rise of the Jack-O’-Lanterns, which features over 5,000 hand carved illuminated Jack-O’-Lanterns creatively arranged along a scenic walkway with music playing as people stroll. Unfortunately, this year’s show was canceled because of the Coronavirus pandemic.
The pumpkin holds a special place in the hearts of many people during the fall season. The pumpkin is one of the stars of Halloween and Thanksgiving, which are two of America’s most beloved and celebrated holidays. So, have you picked out your favorite pumpkin yet?
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