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Elice, 8, and Emily, 5, Dooley, pick out pumpkins at the “Pumpkin Patch” outside Boggio’s Orchard. The kids were visiting with their father. Boggio’s has all kinds of pumpkins to choose from and draws a large crowd every fall season. The orchard is open through November. NewsTribune photo/Scott Anderson
People from all over the Illinois Valley area flock to the pumpkin patch at Boggio’s Orchard near Granville. The patch offers many pumpkins from which to choose. NewsTribune photo/Scott Anderson
Pumpkin Photo Contest
Welcome to the Great Pumpkin Giveway Enter photos for great prizes at www.newstrib.com How to enter: Click on the Pumpkin Giveaway link on the home page and click the "Enter a Photo" tab and submit a photo that contains a pumpkin in some way, shape or form. (Scarecrows, pumpkin pies, children dressed as pumpkins, fall decorations...) One entry per person. Submissions will be accepted Oct. 7-16. How to vote: Click on the "Vote" tab to cast a daily vote for a favorite pumpkin photo. Voting begins Oct. 16, but you can preview the entries beginning Monday under the "View Entries" tab. The contest ends Oct. 23. Prizes: The top three entries (based on votes) will be awarded gift certificates to spend at any NewsTribune advertiser where pumpkins (real or artificial) are sold. First place will receive a $50 gift certificate. Second place will receive a $25 gift certificate. Third place will receive a $10 gift certificate.
Hunter Simpson had never seen pumpkins before. The 19-month-old’s attention was drawn toward the largest of those on display. Especially those he could climb. For years, the Simpson family has made a tradition of spending a fall day heading to an orchard and picking out pumpkins. On a recent Saturday at Boggio’s Little Mountain Orchard in Granville, mom, dad and Grandma Simpson all enjoyed watching Hunter try to make sense of the oddly-shaped fall fruit. “It’s a tradition we wanted to share with him,” said Hunter’s mother, Stephanie Simpson of Hollowayville. “My mom and dad did the same thing with me when I was little. It gets kids involved and gives them an opportunity to learn.” In the United States, the fall season brings with it trees changing colors, cool crisp air pushing away the warm humidity of summer and the appearance of those unique orange fruits with the thick shells and long stems. Pumpkins. They might just be the most iconic staple of the fall holidays of Halloween and Thanksgiving. But not only that, they are used for much more than just carving into jack-o-lanterns. Pumpkins are nutritious, versatile and loaded with vitamins. They can be used to make soup, dessert, flavored coffee, breads and pies. Pumpkins also have a long history, playing a key role in the western colonization of America.
History Early pumpkins used by Native Americans weren’t the traditional round orange variety we can buy at a local orchard or store, according to University of Illinois Extension Office master gardener Paul Barrett. Instead, they were a crooked neck variety that kept well over long harsh winters. Archeologists believe pumpkins and squash were generally cultivated along river and creek banks with sunflowers and beans long before the widespread planting of corn. And once corn emerged, ancient farmers learned to grow squash with corn and beans using the “Three Sisters” method. Simply defined, the Three Sisters involves using corn as a natural trellis for the beans to grow on. The bean roots set nitrogen in the soil to nourish corn. And the squash plants shelter the shallow roots of corn and shade the ground to discourage weeds and preserve moisture. Barrett said the Three Sisters method back then was the precursor to crop rotation used today. In fact, many organic farms have adopted this method of growing which takes advantage of natural chemical as opposed to manmade compounds. “Beans today are mostly hybrids so it would be difficult to do the Three Sisters method in your backyard unless you are using pole beans,” Barrett said. “But all three worked together really well and if you used spiny squash that’ll also help keep critters like raccoons away from the corn.”
Food and pilgrims Native Americans roasted pumpkin strips over campfires and used them as a food source long before the Europeans arrived. They cooked pumpkin flesh in a variety of ways, ate the seeds like we do today and used them as a medicine. Pumpkin blossoms were added to stews. And dried pumpkin could be stored and ground into flour. Pumpkin shells also were dried and used as bowls to store grain, beans and seeds. Had it not been for the pumpkin, American civilization may not have developed because the pilgrims likely would have starved to death, according to the extension office’s resources. Native Americans introduced pumpkins to Europeans and showed them the many versatile ways they could use the fruit to survive harsh winters. This anonymous poem believed to have been written by a pilgrim in 1633 helps illustrate the dependence early settlers had on pumpkins. “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.”
The first “pumpkin pie” Pilgrims used pumpkins by cutting off their tops, scooping the seeds out and filling the cavity with cream, honey, eggs and spices. The top was put back on and the pumpkin was buried in the hot ashes of a cooking fire. After the pumpkin blackened, they pulled it from the fire and scooped out the contents that formed a type of custard.
Pumpkin beer and haircuts Pilgrims also made pumpkin beer. They fermented a combination of persimmons, hops, maple sugar and pumpkin to make an early colonial brew. In early colonies, pumpkin shells were used as a template for haircuts to ensure a round and uniform finished cut. As a result of this practice, New Englanders were sometimes nicknamed “pumpkinheads.”
Jack-O-Lanterns There are many theories about the practice of carving pumpkins into jack-o-lanterns. The most commonly held belief is that the Irish or Celtic groups carved out potatoes and turnips in a similar fashion. It wasn’t until Irish immigrants came to the “new world” and discovered pumpkins that a new Halloween ritual was born.
Pumpkin love Homer Glen resident Wendy Borucki loves pumpkins. In fact, since she discovered Boggio’s orchard and its selection of unique pumpkins she’s come back every fall to pick out her favorites. Her trunk was filled with pumpkins once she was ready to leave. One was a massive traditional orange pumpkin, others were red reminiscent of a large tomato and she even filled in the haul with several small white pumpkins. “They make great decorations for the front porch,” she said. “I probably overdo it every year but I just love them.” Kevin Caufield can be reached at (815) 220-6932 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Did you Know? Did you know? Pumpkins are a member of the gourd family, which includes cucumbers, honeydew melons, cantaloupe, watermelons and zucchini. These plants are native to Central America and Mexico, but now grow on six continents. The largest pumpkin pie ever baked was in 2005 and weighed 2,020 pounds. Pumpkins have been grown in North America for 5,000 years. They are indigenous to the western hemisphere. In 1584, after French explorer Jacques Cartier explored the St. Lawrence region of North America, he reported finding “gros melons.” The name was translated into English as “pompions,” which evolved into the modern “pumpkin.” Pumpkins are low in calories, fat and sodium and high in fiber. They are good sources of vitamin A, vitamin B, potassium, protein and iron. The heaviest pumpkin weighed 1,810 pounds 8 ounces and was presented by Chris Stevens at the Stillwater Harvest Fest in Stillwater, Minn., in October 2010. Pumpkin seeds should be planted between the last week of May and the middle of June. They take between 90 and 120 days to grow and are picked in October when they are bright orange in color. Their seeds can be saved to grow new pumpkins the next year.
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