Smashing Pumpkins–New Hampshire Records That Is

Native son Bill Rodonis of Litchfield New Hampshire used to hold the Guiness world-record title for growing the largest (or at least heaviest) pumpkin. He was beat out in 2007 by Joe Jutras of North Scituate, Rhode Island.  Joe’s 1,689 pound pumpkin was a measly 123 pounds more than Bill’s 1,566 pounder. Don’t worry, I’m sure Bill will be starting early to create the largest for next year’s Topsfield Fair weigh-off. [Editor’s note: This year the Topsfield Fair will be held October 3 – October 13, 2014].

The desire for bragging rights about the weight of pumpkins in the colonies probably goes back to the time when they first learned how to grow these plants from the Native Peoples. As early as 1792 Osborne’s New Hampshire Spy of Portsmouth, New Hampshire announced the following: “This season at the town of Newcastle five pumpkins were raised by Mr. Joseph Bell, whose weight together, amounted to 256 lbs. In this town, two pumpkins of the same kind were raised by Mr. John Seavey, which weighed 127 lbs. The weight of the seven, amount to 383 lbs.”

The size of pumpkins wasn’t New Hampshire’s the only concern last month.  In various locations pumpkins took center stage, such as at the Milford Pumpkin Festival (held October 5-7th) when so many people were expected that the Milford Oval was closed. At Keene’s famous Pumpkin Festival, they were not able to recapture their Guiness World record for the number of lit pumpkins (held on October 19-20), but folks had a lot of fun.

Pumpkin pie is one of my favorite desserts. I’ve never made this pie “from scratch,” and usually opt to buy the pie filling at the grocery store.  Cooks have it so easy these days. In November of 1865 the Farmer’s Cabinet of Amherst NH published the following recipe for pumpkin pie.

“HOW TO MAKE NICE PUMPKIN PIES.–Peal and cut the pumpkins pretty fine, then wash thoroughly in warm water; put the material into a strong linen or cotton bag, and steam it at high pressure two hours–never boil pumpkin for pies. After steaming sufficiently, place the pulp in a fine wire sieve, and suffer it to drain two hours longer. Then rub it through the sieve into a pan of new, sweet milk, made sweeter by the addition of first-class syrup until you think the pies will be sweet enough. The milk should be warmed, and salted and spiced just right, and if you have three or four eggs to spare, beat them up well and add them to the milk. The pie will certainly be improved by them. After rubbing in the pumpkin until you have a very thing batter, line pans an inch in depth with a short crust rolled thin, and fill the pan three-quarters full.– Bake in a moderately hot oven an hour and a half; and if you discover the least twang of that objectionable raw, pumpkin taste about your pies, you may set it down for a certainty that there is something wrong about the pumpkins or your proceedings.”

Some little known facts about the pumpkin….
– it is native to the western hemisphere, but is now grown in Europe, Australia, New Zealand and India
– it is botanically classified as a fruit, but usually is often thought of as a vegetable
– some pumpkins are not orange (some are green, white, red or gray).
– the early colonist may have called them “pompions,” a nickname given to most squash at that time.
– the pumpkin is New Hampshire’s official state fruit

Janice

*Additional Reading*

Keene NH Pumpkin Photographs

Curcurbita pepo

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