Derived from the Greek word pepon meaning large melon, the word pumpkin went thru several changes. The French nasalized pepon into pompon, the English in turn pronounced it as pumpion and the American colonist (rebels that they were) changed it to pumpkin. Its long history dates back many centuries but originated in Central America.
There are many benefits to this Native American fruit (yes, it is considered a fruit). Pumpkins were used not only for food but medicine and other items. The seeds were thought to expel worms and prevent prostate problems. The Native American used to roast seeds and strips of pumpkins on an open fire and eat them. They would also dry flattened strips and make mats out of them. Pumpkins were used for removing freckles and healing snake bites.
The first pumpkin pie happened when Colonist cut the top off, removed the seeds, poured milk, spices and honey inside, then baked it in hot ashes. The pumpkin was then the crust, not the filling. Today, Pumpkins are still used as a vegetable, in soups, breads and pies. The flowers are edible and the seeds are still roasted and enjoyed as a delightful snack.
Pumpkins have come a long way; they vary in size, shape and color adding new avenues to creative decorations as well as culinary delights. Stemming from a large gene pool, some have been hybridized for unique shapes and coloration while others for their seeds, texture and flavor. Heirloom pumpkins seeds maintain the genetic bio-diversity that is important to future crops. Each unique variety that has been passed down for generations has developed some resistance to disease or pests which can be used to breed into modern varieties.
The Seed Savers Exchange works diligently to preserve and save the genetic history of many crops from extinction. If you have some heirloom seeds to share, contact the Seed Exchange (seedsavers.org).