Pumkin Lore

More than just Halloween and pie

Ken in the greenhouse

May 2006 with one last survivor from 2005

Most American’s knowledge of pumpkins pretty much ends after the Halloween carving project and Thanksgiving dessert is over. However, pumpkins have much more to offer . The seeds are both high in protein and rich in a highly nutritious, flavorful oil.

Pumpkins – the early years


Behold! Cucurbita pepo

Pumpkins are true American originals. Although other species of pumpkins exist in different parts of the world, the variety we know best for jack-o’-lanterns and pie is known to botonists as Cucurbita pepo. Found in parts of the US and Mexico, it was domesticated by the American Indians.

Pumpkins & Christopher Columbus

columbus presenting pumpkins

1492 – Columbus vogueing in front of Ferdinand & Isabella of Spain will presenting pumpkins

“In fourteen hundred and ninety two, Columbus sailed the ocean blue” and discovered pumpkins. Well, of course he didn’t “discover” pumpkins anymore than he had “discovered” the continent or its peoples but he was the first European to witness the use of pumpkins, widely grown in the southern parts of the US and Caribbean. Columbus made two trips to the new world and he was impressed enough with pumpkins that he took them back with him to Europe on his very first trip.

A star is born, pumpkins get the royal treatment

Pumpkins along with the gold and other treasures from the new world were presented to Columbus’ sponsors, the King & Queen of Spain. Sure there was some interest in the gold but it was really the pumpkins that got everyone excited. Ok, that last part is totally made up but it does seem that pumpkins were well received because by the 1600’s they were being grown across Europe.

Austrians knows a good thing when they see it

It was in the Southeastern Austrian state of Styria, that our own American pumpkin found its most appreciative and discerning audience. Over three centuries ago, they began to grow pumpkins specifically for the oil-rich seeds. By the 1700s the regulation-minded Austrians had developed appellations or standards on just exactly how pumpkin seed oil should be properly produced. Today, by far, the world’s largest producers and consumers of pumpkin seed oil are the Austrians. The oil is called Kubis Kernl or Kürbiskernöl. And is widely used in salads, vinaigrettes and marinades.

Mutant Pumpkins

Have you ever taken the seeds from your jack-o’-lantern and roasted them? If so, you know how good they taste but they’ve got that darned hard white shell. That hard coat is called the testa and it makes it a lot more work to produce pumpkin seed oil. The seeds had to be soaked then peeled. Well, as sometimes happens in nature a mutant or “sport” was discovered in Austria in the 1870’s. A pumpkin was found where the seed coat was reduced to a thin silvery paper around the seed meat (actually this is what becomes the first leaves of the pumpkin seedling, called cotyledons) Oh happy day for pumpkin seed oil producers. It made it MUCH easier to produce the oil without having to deal with that testy testa thing.

Back to the USA !

It is high time that Americans get with it and reclaim our own native pumpkin. Hay River Pumpkin Seed Oil is the very first grown and pressed in the United States. Although most people have never even heard of it, that is going to be changing quickly because of one strong reason – it is absolutely delicious!