#bioPGH Blog: Pumpkins
Oct 08

#bioPGH Blog: Pumpkins

By Lorren Kezmoh, Outreach Coordinator, Phipps Science Education and Research

Biophilia NetworkA resource of Biophilia: Pittsburgh, #bioPGH is a weekly blog and social media series that aims to encourage both children and adults to reconnect with nature and enjoy what each of our distinctive seasons has to offer. From the best times to plant seasonal flora and enjoy their peak blooms, to astronomical events and creatures to keep an eye and ear out for, Phipps will keep you in the know with what’s going on in our environment!

No other plant is as synonymous to fall as the pumpkin. This iconic round, orange fruit is a cultivar, or specially selected variety, of the extremely diverse Cucurbitaceae family, whose members also include squash and gourds. Pumpkins are actually fruit as they develop from flowers and contain the seeds necessary for the plant’s propagation. While the word ”pumpkin” is well recognized throughout the United States, botanically it has no meaning as all pumpkins are simply considered a type of squash. Any round, orange, hard-skinned winter squash that is largely derived from the squash Cucurbita pepo, and most commonly harvested for use in pies or as jack-o-lanterns, is deemed a pumpkin. Did you know that the tradition of creating glowing jack-o-lanterns at Halloween was believed to have originated in Ireland, where people would carve faces into beets, turnips and potatoes? The pumpkins we’ve come to know and love weren’t used as jack-o-lanterns until immigrants brought their traditions to America!

Connecting to the Outdoors Tip: There’s no better way to celebrate the season and get outside than to visit a local pumpkin patch! There are several local farms surrounding Pittsburgh that offer a variety of activities for everyone to enjoy such as hayrides, pumpkin picking, corn mazes and even apple orchards to explore. As you start planning your perfect pumpkin carving, consider taking advantage of the naturally ooey-gooey insides and create some different types of pumpkin sensory dough for little ones to investigate while carving gets underway. Not only do pumpkins make for the perfect fall décor, they’re also a great treat to eat! Roast and season pumpkin seeds left over from carving for an extra snack, or if you’re really into the flavors of fall you can purchase smaller pumpkins specifically for cooking and baking at several local grocers to incorporate into your meals.

Continue the Conversation: Share your nature discoveries with our community by posting to Twitter and Instagram with hashtag #bioPGH, and R.S.V.P. to attend our next Biophilia: Pittsburgh meeting.

Additional Resources:
Pumpkins - The Old Farmer’s Almanac
How to Jazz Up Your Roasted Pumpkin Seed - HuffPost Taste
Pumpkin Sensory Dough - Housing a Forest
Pumpkin Patches in Southwestern Pennsylvania - About.com
Pittsburgh Area Fall Festivals and Pumpkin Patches - Pittsburgh Mom