Everything You Think You Know About Pumpkins Is a Lie

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It’s after Labor Day, which means it’s almost fall and therefore practically Halloween. (That’s how time works, right?)

While summer isn’t officially over yet, I’m already thinking about pumpkin pie, pumpkin soup, and–of course–pumpkin spice lattes. But what if I told you that you don’t know jack about jack-o’-lanterns?

Delicious Facts

Although we usually think of pumpkins as being cheerful, dark orange gourds, they actually come in more than 45 different varieties. That includes tiny white pumpkins, big pastel pink pumpkins, and even blue pumpkins!

Oh, and they’re totally not vegetables, by the way. Pumpkins are fruits in the same family as cucumbers and melons. 2 billion pounds of this crop are grown around the world every year–with more than 80% sold during the month of October.

You can eat every part of the pumpkin–from the seeds to the flowers to the leaves! It’s truly an amazing plant.

Jack-o’-Lanterns Were Made Out of What?!

In Europe, the tradition of carving vegetables into ghoulish faces and sticking lights inside them dates back centuries. But those English and Irish folks didn’t use pumpkins–they usually carved turnips or potatoes. They used burning embers from the fire, not costly candles, too.

Irish immigrants brought the superstition with them to America and discovered the joy of carving pumpkins instead of potatoes.

Pumpkin Puree Isn’t What You Think

When you buy canned pumpkin puree for pies or other fall treats, you might be surprised to discover what’s actually included. Many brands include a blend of other winter squash–mostly butternut, but also Boston Marrow, Hubbard, and other varieties.

The reason? Actual pumpkin doesn’t taste as smooth or sweet as other types of squash. If you’ve ever carved a jack-o’-lantern, then you know that pumpkins are really stringy inside. While you can scrape down the flesh, cook it, and then run it through a blender, you’ll get better results in most recipes with the canned (fake) stuff.

How is that allowed? Doesn’t it say “100% Pure Pumpkin” right there on the label? Technically, the USDA defines the term as any winter squash with a firm shell and sweet, golden flesh. Yum!

Let’s Talk About Spice

Pumpkin spice shows up in everything from delicious lattes to beer this time of year.

But you might be surprised to know that America’s favorite gourd isn’t one of the flavors included in the mix. Instead, most companies flavor their products with some combination of cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, allspice, and vanilla.