By VICKI BROWN
For those with the decorating flare, fall gets those creative juices flowing. With the first colored leaf, inspiration comes to autumn lovers looking to enhance the house and yard.
A favorite of all decorators is the pumpkin.
Here are a few important pumpkin facts.
According to chefs Stephen Block and Stephen Holloway of Food History, the word pumpkin comes from The British word Pumpion. The British named it from the French word Pompon, a word derived from the ancient Greek word, Pepon which meant “large melon”. The pumpkin is actually a member of the cucumber, honeydew melon, gourd, squash, cantaloupe, watermelon and zucchini family because it grows on a vine.
Archeologists say that fragments of pumpkins have been found and dated back to almost 7,000 BC, so it has been around for quite a while. Guinness Book of World Records reports that the largest pumpkin ever grown was 2,624.6 pounds, and was grown by Mathias Willemijns (Belgium) and authenticated by the Great Pumpkin Commonwealth (GPC) in Ludwigsburg, Germany, on 9 October 2016.
According to the History Channel, carving pumpkins originated in Ireland and came from an old legend about a trickster named Stingy Jack, who tricked the Devil. God wouldn’t let him in Heaven, and the Devil wouldn’t let him in Hell. He was doomed to walk the earth with a hot coal. So, Jack put the coal in a turnip to light the way. People continued to carve scary faces into turnips to frighten away Stingy Jack and evil spirits. They called them jack-o-lanterns.
Originally, pumpkins were mainly found in northern Mexico and the southeastern United States. Native Americans ate them and eventually, the seeds were spread across the country by explorers and travelers. Later, immigrants found the large orange fruit to be better for making jack-o-lanterns, and the idea spread.
Tips on pumpkin carving
According to Real Simple, choose a pumpkin the week you plan to carve it. The skin needs to be smooth, with a green, healthy stem which indicates the pumpkin was picked recently and will last longer. Also pick a pumpkin that is heavier than it looks.
Resist carving it until three days before Halloween.
Carving any earlier, will result in a rotten, collapsing melon, which actually may frighten trick-or-treaters more than the scary face on the pumpkin.
In the south, our weather tends to be warmer, so decomposition happens rather quickly.
There are some ways to extend the life of the jack-o-lantern a little longer if you are determined to carve too soon.
After you remove the seeds and insides, decorators at Real Simple say to gently wash the inside and outside of the pumpkin with a mixture of one teaspoon of bleach per one quart of water. This will kill the bacteria that is responsible for mold. After you carve the pumpkin, soak it in a bucket of water and two-thirds of a cup of bleach for 24 hours.
It also helps to keep your jack-o-lantern in the refrigerator at night to last longer.