Sunday, 30 October 2016
Five facts you never knew about pumpkins
The humble pumpkin’s Latin name, Cucurbita pepo means ‘Squash the Devil’, which incantation is still used in the climactic dance display that closes the Corsican Pumpkin Festival. A cowering figure in red robes plays the Prince of Darkness who is finally flattened by a giant pumpkin, especially cultivated and blessed for the occasion. In recent years, Lucifers – drawn by lots from a list of nervous public officials – have suffered various broken bones and on one occasion a complete nervous breakdown.
Vegans can’t eat commercially grown pumpkins. Although from a vine whose family includes courgettes, marrows, gourds and various squashes the International Vegan Council have declared the pumpkin verboten on the grounds that pumpkin growers traditionally use manure which has passed though the gut of animals. Other foods banned by vegans include eggplant, durian fruit, penguin biscuits, lion bars, sea cucumber and leather fruit.
Some cultures use the pumpkin in traditional medicine, the various parts having different medicinal applications. The ground-up seeds contain high levels of protein which are used to nurture cells in stem cell research in the high Andes Mountains. In Liberia, small pumpkins grown in laboratory conditions are used as temporary replacements in kidney transplant surgery. And throughout the west, practitioners of eastern holistic cures use hot pumpkins placed on the spine to relieve stress, although admittedly this is due to a mistranslation of an ancient Chinese text.
Whereas in Europe and North America the term ‘couch potato’ is used to describe somebody of a lazy disposition, sitting around all day and rarely moving, other places, notably South America, turn to the pumpkin for inspiration. To call somebody ‘my little pumpkin’ is an endearment, referring mainly to their shape and possibly to their Donald Trump style facial colouring. But for a shaming reference they use the more descriptive, “Hey, get off your arse you lazy, fat, fucking pumpkin!” It does the trick. Pumpkin has also become identifiable with white privilege in recent years.
Pumpkins – apart from the seeds, of course - have no calories, which means that you could eat as much as you like without putting on any weight. In fact it takes more calories to physically eat and to digest pumpkin flesh so that it actually has the effect of making you lose weight. In ancient times, whole villages were lost to starvation, having grown only pumpkins for survival over winter until this phenomenon was realised. This is why pumpkin pie, for purely nutritional purposes, is stuffed with fat and sugar. Eat up; it may very well save your life.