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Examiner
  • Lori Boyajian-O'Neill: Great gourds of goodness

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  • Pumpkins! Big, bright globes of goodness. There are few fruits more nutritious. Celebrated by the Peanuts gang and hordes of kids in search of their own Great Pumpkin, they welcome us to fall.
    Pumpkins, what do you know? T or F?
    1 Iowa is the leading pumpkin producer. 2 Pumpkins are fat free. 3 Pumpkins are 90 percent water.
    'Pumpkin' comes from the Greek word, “pepon” literally translated, “large melon.”
    The fruit is native to America and became widely popular among English colonists through their interaction with Native Americans. Pumpkin pie originated when colonists removed the seeds and filled the inside with milk, honey and spices. The pumpkin was baked in hot ashes and, voila, pumpkin pie was born.
    Over 1.1 billion pounds of pumpkin are grown annually with over 95 percent used for food. Illinois produces 90-95 percent of pumpkins grown in the U.S. The rest are used for decoration and to frighten evil spirits.
    Historians report that the original 'Jack of the Lantern' comes from the Irish myth about a man named, “Stingy Jack.” Jack, a rather unsavory character, had tricked the Devil on a few occasions when their paths crossed. Each time Stingy Jack vexed the Devil by placing a cross nearby.
    At the time of Jack's death he had succeeded in angering both the Devil and God, presumably for different reasons. Consequently, neither would permit entry into their respective domains, Hell and Heaven.
    Poor Jack was left to roam the earth with nothing but a piece of burning coal to light his way which he placed in a turnip. Thus, the Irish myth of 'Jack of the Lantern' was born. The carving of scary visages into potatoes, gourds and pumpkins were intended to ward off evil spirits. When Irish colonists arrived they brought this tradition with them and found pumpkins to be the perfect lantern.
    The rich orange color of pumpkins means they are packed with beta-carotenes. Eat enough beta-carotenes and you, too, will be orange! Many parents of infants have discovered this after too many feedings of pureed carrots and sweet potatoes.
    Beta-carotenes are converted to vitamin A which is believed to prevent heart disease and decrease risk of certain cancers. Some researchers believe that aging is slowed with a diet rich in beta-carotenes. Pumpkins are also rich in vitamin C and potassium. Pumpkin seeds contain essential amino acids, zinc, protein and fiber.
    Peter, Peter Pumpkin Eater may have had marital problems, but with all of that beta-carotene he probably lived a long life. Linus van Pelt said, “There are three things I have learned never to discuss with people: religion, politics and the Great Pumpkin!”
    I found my Great Pumpkin in the form of a Tippin's pie. I'll have my beta-carotenes with a dollop of whipped cream, thank you.
    Page 2 of 2 - Answers: 1. F; 2. T; 3. T.
    Dr. Lori Boyajian-O’Neill can be contacted at lori.boyajian-oneill@hcahealthcare.com.
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