“Pumpkin” originated from the Greek word Pepõn, (meaning large melon). Pumpkins are believed to have originated in the Americas along riverbanks. After corn was cultivated, ancient farmers learned to grow pumpkin (or squash) along with corn and beans using the “3 Sisters Tradition”. The 3 sisters being squash, corn and beans which when grown together, thrive. Corn acts as the natural support for the beans to grow on while the bean roots put nitrogen into the soil which nourishes the corn. The squash plants shelter the shallow roots of the corn plant and shade the ground to hold in moisture and keep out weeds. This is a proven, tried, tested and sustainable practice going back generations. The pumpkin provided a reliable food source that lasted throughout the winter and could be roasted, baked and dried. Pumpkin seeds were used as medicine - as a diuretic, for kidneys and to rid the body of parasites.
In the early days, the Native Americans used the seeds to grind into flour. The shells of the pumpkin would be dried and used as carrying or holding vessels for other grains and seeds. The early pilgrims didn’t make their pumpkin dessert quite like we do our pies today. They would actually cut off the tops, scoop out the seeds and fill the inside with honey, cream, eggs and spices and when baked in a buried hole of hot ashes they would produce a delectable custard-like dessert. They were also known to use pumpkins for beer-making, along with maple syrup, persimmons and hops. Without pumpkins on the North American continent, those early settlers might have had a much more difficult time with many succumbing to starvation.
This is an actual poem over the testament of the use and necessity of pumpkins in those days;
“For pottage and puddings and custards and pies
Our pumpkins and parsnips are common supplies,
We have pumpkins at morning and pumpkins at noon,
If it were not for pumpkins we should be undoon."
Pilgrim verse, circa 1633
Tanya is a classically trained, Red Seal Chef, and former restauranteur and caterer, with additional studies in Holistic Nutrition and business. Having food as her foundation she continues to build on her interests and knowledge base in the study of the body, mind and brain connection. She now spends her time as a Mom of twins, researcher and writer, while continuing to participate digitally in the culinary world with her company, Artisan Food Co.