(Editor's Note: This article was originally published on October 10, 2011. Your comments are welcome but please be aware that authors of previously published articles may not be able to respond to your questions.)
Our love affair with the pumpkin is one that has lasted for many centuries. Can you think of a more recognized symbol of harvest and autumn? Well, there are many but when a pumpkin is seen, it typically means autumn has arrived. So, what is it about this gourd that attracts us so? What spell does it weave upon the unsuspecting?
The Deep, Bright Orange
There are fewer shades of orange which are more enticing than the atypical orange found in the majestic pumpkin. I have found only one other example in nature akin to this beautiful hue. In my youth, whim and fancy would lead to many captivating road-trips. One of my most memorable was when I was travelling to Chicago and as I travelled the miles and miles of farm land of Iowa; I came to a complete stop as the sun was setting. In America the Beautiful, the author comments on the amber waves of grain but it really did not hold any meaning until that day. The grain fields were set alight and I stood in awe as I have never seen anything quite like this ever. Held over the waves of grain was a foreign round object and the color of fire. This could not be the sun I gazed upon so many times before. The sun I knew was distant and remote. This object was the size of a planet and my eyes were deceived into thinking I could walk right up to it and touch it. This fiery, beautiful orange is the only orange that immediately comes to mind that matches the deep, burnt orange of the pumpkin.
When it comes time to pick out a pumpkin for Halloween, the preference to the shape is as individual as one's own hair style. Some prefer the tall, more oblong shape of pumpkin as this provides more real estate for their carved creation. Others (and I am in this category) prefer the perfectly round, traditional variety. I have a ‘thing' for perfect symmetry and I have been known to spend a great deal of time rummaging through the pumpkins for that perfect round shape. Nearly one thing all can agree on is that the pumpkin of choice must have an ample stem. This completes the overall appearance not to mention it provides ease of lifting and replacing the lid of your carved jack-o-lantern.
One of the more unique aspects of this beautiful orange fruit is the texture. There are few fruits that have such inviting ridges just begging to be touched. Admit it, when you enter your local grocers during this time of year, your hand reaches out to feel those pumpkin grooves.
With the falling leaves of auburn and crimson, the pumpkin is also there to herald the arrival of autumn and essentially the entire holiday season. Of course pumpkins are purchased for carving and dressing in accordance with the Halloween holiday but they are also used to symbolize the harvest as well. Pumpkins that escape the carving often take pride and place with perhaps a cornucopia and other gourds well into Thanksgiving. My personal favorite for this type of decorating are the miniature pumpkins. Mixing several with all of the other exotic shaped and colorful gourds can provide a grand display for the months of October and November.
Beyond our tables and porches, the pumpkin has wound its tendrils around modern day pop culture. What does Cinderella's fairy god mother use for the perfect carriage to take her to the ball? Why a pumpkin of course! What a grand carriage it turned out to be as well. Perhaps most famous is the beloved Charles Schulz cartoon, "It's the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown!" While the rest of the Peanuts gang enjoys the typical traditions of Halloween, Linus and Sally sit in the midst of the most sincere pumpkin patch in hopes of the Great Pumpkin's arrival. Despite the Great Pumpkin's absence, there is one thing that always strikes a chord with me when it comes to Linus' pumpkin patch and that is his overflowing pride for his creation. I, like millions of my fellow gardeners have cultivated a pumpkin patch and perhaps like me, my contemporaries think of Linus and this endearing cartoon as their patch takes shape. I remember thinking in those days that my patch was very sincere and most definitely worthy of the Great Pumpkin.
Though I have no garden this year, I would like to nominate a pumpkin ‘patch' for being the most sincere. This is a photo of just one pumpkin - and a grand one at that - growing outside a fence in downtown Denver. I do not know if this planting was deliberate or if perhaps this seed found its way here by some other force but I thought it fitting it was growing on Vine Street. Just look at the size and beauty of this gorgeous pumpkin! Wouldn't you agree that this in itself would make it most sincere?
Thank you for reading this article and I hope you have enjoyed it. Do you have pumpkins growing? If so, add some photos to the comments. I would love to see your patch! All photos were taken by the author apart from the image from the cartoon. That is compliments of Wikimedia Commons. I wish you all nothing but the very best of all things and I pray you are enjoying this autumnal transition or spring transition if you live in the southern hemisphere. Take care!