Did you know that pumpkins have been growing in North America for about 10,000 years? Though we’re all aware that pumpkins were included in the diets of many Native people throughout the American continents, you might be surprised to learn that everyone’s favourite kind of squash wasn’t really a popular ingredient for early European settlers. In fact, even today the pumpkin is used more for fall and Hallowe’en decoration than for cooking!
This blog will explore how Fall came to be filled with pumpkins and all the wonderful ways you can include them in your autumn festivities–from hollowing them out with creative carvings to including them in seasonal recipes.
According to Cindy Ott, Professor of History and Museum Studies at the University of Delaware and author of Pumpkin: The Curious History of an American Icon, pumpkins were something of a last resort ingredient to early European settlers in the Americas. Though the native plant was—and is—so prolific it literally grows like a weed, Europeans preferred to base their meals on wheat, cabbage and foods that were more popular in the countries they’d come from. For many, using pumpkin on a regular basis was something only poor families had to do.
All the same, pumpkins remained a staple of the American garden, both to bolster the home menu and to keep livestock fed. When industrialisation took hold of the world, it became a symbol of an older, idealised way of life. In the 19th century, pumpkins started showing up in artwork, kitchen décor and pie recipes to celebrate the fall harvest and feel wistful about ways of life gone by.
Excess pumpkins (of which there always are some; just ask anyone with a squash garden) would be preserved by canning so they could be used anytime over the course of the coming year. While various Native people throughout what is now Canada, the United States and Mexico would roast, boil or grind their pumpkin harvest into powder, settler Europeans tended fill their pumpkins with milk, honey and spices before roasting or boiling them. In fact, the first version of pumpkin pie used the squash as a crust, not a filling! They would also grind dried pumpkins into flour to use for bread and pastries.
In the Niagara region today, you’ll find a distant cousin to that original pumpkin pie in every café and bakery during the spooky harvest season. And, though perhaps pumpkin spice doesn’t taste much like anything the people of North America ate a few hundred years ago, the emotional response it summons remains the same: the comfort of a successful harvest after a long year of work. Mmm!
Have you always wanted to go out and pick your own pumpkin, just like Linus in the pumpkin patch? The Niagara region is chock full of pumpkins in the fall, usually beginning in September! Spend an afternoon gathering these iconic orange squash for decorations, baking or canning with other members of the community. Most pumpkin patches in the area also feature autumn activities like hay rides, haunted barn tours, cider drinking and corn mazes, so it’s a fun and fulfilling day outside for the whole family.
To add a layer to your harvest celebrations, use one of your specially selected pumpkins to create your very own pumpkin pie—whether it’s more of a custard within a hollow pumpkin, or a pumpkin paste within a pastry shell, as the Thanksgiving staple had become by the end of the 18th century. You could also try your hand at pumpkin bread, feature of mealtimes for both Natives and Europeans living in the Americas some 400 years ago!
Though all types of squash and gourds make for beautiful fall décor, pumpkins are an autumn and Hallowe’en favourite because they are not only bright and large, but totally edible. Sure, all squash are edible, but they don’t come in gigantic sizes—and gourds aren’t really edible once their shells become dry and hard. Regardless of whether you plan to turn your decorations into pie or curry when Hallowe’en’s done, every weird pumpkin, squash and gourd works for fall decorating!
As the crisp autumn air sweeps through the picturesque landscapes of the Niagara Region, it's time to embrace the spirit of fall and Halloween by incorporating pumpkins into your decor. The Niagara Region, known for its stunning vineyards, orchards, and charming towns, provides the perfect backdrop for celebrating the changing seasons with this iconic symbol of autumn.
One of the most classic ways to decorate with pumpkins is by carving jack-o'-lanterns. The Niagara Region's pumpkin patches offer a wide variety of pumpkins in different shapes, sizes, and colours, so whether you’re in the mood for perfectly round pumpkins with classic toothy grins or a collection of misshapen weirdos singing autumn carols along your driveway, you won’t have to look far.
For a more rustic touch, consider placing pumpkins on your doorstep or entryway in their natural state. Their earthy orange hues will match beautifully with the region's vibrant foliage, yet stand apart from your own autumn plants and shrubs. You can also add cornstalks, hay bales, and autumn leaves to create a charming rustic display that captures the essence of fall.
Don’t forget to incorporate pumpkins into your indoor real estate! For families, this can be just as fun as outdoor decorating. Craft pumpkin centerpieces for your dining table or create a mantle display with an assortment of pumpkins, gourds and dried flowers. The Niagara Region's farm stands and craft stores are excellent places to find inspiration and materials.
Visit our listings page to see what tickles your fancy! Our agents are always happy to speak with you about buying a new property and selling the home you’re in now. With a bit of luck you’ll be into new home while there’s still time to appreciate pumpkin season.