How Traditional Cultures Use Pumpkins





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©2009  Shanna Lea (formerly Shanna Ohmes)



With Halloween a week away, I thought we would explore what to do with that pumpkin you bought.  You know about pumpkin pie and probably breads or muffins, but do you know what else pumpkin has been used for?



The pumpkin originated in Central America.  Seeds have been found in Mexico dating back to between 7,000 and 5,500 B.C.  As the pumpkin was taken by explorers to their homelands it was adopted by many traditional cultures.  We will explore a few these cultures.

  • The Native Americans wove mats from dried strips of pumpkin.  They also roasted long pumpkin strips in the ashes to eat.  And of course they grew the 3 sisters together—corn, beans and squash/pumpkins.
  • The colonists made the first pumpkin pie!  The sliced off the top, scooped out the seeds and filled up the pumpkin with milk, honey and spices.  Then they put the pumpkin in the hot ashes to bake.  The colonists also used the pumpkin meat as the crust of their pie, not as the filling like we do today.
  • In India they have a dish called Pumpkin Halwa, or Kaddu ka halwa, made with sugar, ghee, milk and nuts.
  • In Pakistan pumpkin is use to prepare gravies.
  • In the Middle East they use pumpkin for a dish called halawa yaqtin that is sweet.
  • The Chinese cook the pumpkin leaves in soups.
  • Australians and New Zealanders roast pumpkin with other vegetables and meats like lamb, beef, and turkey as part of the main meal.  They also boil them and occasionally make it into a pie.
  • In Japan, they use small pumpkins in tempura.
  • In Thailand, the small pumpkins are steamed with custard inside for a dessert.
  • And in Italy, it is mixed with cheeses as a stuffing for ravioli.
  • In Germany they used to eat pumpkins as a soup or compote, but it was considered a poor man’s food.
  • Poland people do not eat pumpkin except as a soup.  Many have never eaten pies or cakes made with pumpkin.
  • Switzerland people make pumpkin into pies, soups, and salads.  The Swiss have a dish called gnocchi which is a ball of pumpkin and flour boiled in water.  They make chocolate pumpkin seeds and different meat products with pumpkin seeds.  They also make use of the pumpkin seed oil for salads.


The largest pumpkin ever grown was 1,140 lbs.

Pumpkin can be boiled, baked, steamed or roasted.

Pumpkin seeds are roasted and eaten as snacks.  They are high in manganese, magnesium, phosphorus and more that prevents prostate cancer.

Pumpkin is high in vitamin A, C and potassium good for the lungs, heart health, asthma, men’s health and more!

Pumpkin seed oil is high in essential fatty acids.

The top pumpkin producing states are Illinois, Ohio, Pennsylvania and California.

Pumpkin can be fed to livestock.

Pumpkin flowers are edible.



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