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It's the Great Pumpkin!

October 12, 2021

Early October may feel like late summer in Middle Tennessee, but the foliage will soon change to brilliant hues of red, orange, and yellow while pumpkins and gourds have taken over displays in grocery stores and roadside stands. Pumpkin patch farms are open and experiencing a brisk business. Everywhere, it's all about pumpkins in October.

Festivals celebrating this winter squash are held all over the world with contests to celebrate the largest pumpkin grown each year (the record holder is 2016's official weight of 2,624.6 pounds). Along with the biggest pumpkin, there are usually pumpkin pie eating contests, a huge pumpkin pie, and food stands featuring pumpkin and pumpkin spices along with parades and family entertainment.

In cooking, pumpkin is used to enhance and enrich everything from savories to sweets. A rundown of available pumpkin-rich foods at a world-famous pumpkin show include soup, sloppy joes, taffy, waffles, ice cream, fudge, pancakes, cookies, brownies, chili, chili dogs, cannoli, pizza, cream puffs – and the list goes on. As it turns out, pumpkin is a very versatile ingredient; it's not just for pies anymore!

The pumpkin has come a long way since its ancient roots. This member of the squash family has been nourishing people since at least 7,000 B.C. Like all good things, its cultivation was shared and spread in all directions. Native peoples all over the Americas depended on pumpkins for survival.

As important as the pumpkin is as a food source, people have long used it as a part of fall decorating and, of course, there is the custom of the Halloween Jack-o-Lantern. The pumpkin is also featured in a number of our popular myths and folktales: the frightful "Legend of Sleepy Hollow," "Cinderella," It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown," and "Peter the Pumpkin Eater" are a few of them. The pumpkin continues to offer fascination to all who enjoy the colors, the flavors, and the legends.

To learn more about pumpkins, pumpkin legends and stories that feature pumpkins, key "pumpkin" into the catalog search box. I've chosen a few of the children's resources here. Check it out!

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Donna Reagan has served as Children's Specialist at the Bellevue Branch Library since 2002. She produces My Storytime Place, a local TV show for young children. The ALA's Every Child Ready to Read initiative forms the foundation of her early childhood programming.