Making the school or parent-led visit to a pumpkin patch at the ripening time of the year can be a great experience for the kids. Beyond carving the orange gourds for Halloween decor, the kids can learn many other interesting facts about the pumpkin.
1. History of the pumpkin: The name comes from the Greek pepon, meaning large melon. It was cultivated in Ancient Egypt and Mexico in the New World for at least the past 4,000 years. Archeological digs still find ancient pottery containing pumpkin seeds.
2. How pumpkins are grown: Kids from the city visiting pumpkin patches can see how farm families prepare to grow their pumpkin crop in the spring of each year. The seeds won’t sprout if the soil is too cold, and if there’s a freeze after the pumpkin sprouts appear.
If pumpkins are expected to be ripe for Halloween, the seeds should be planted no earlier than late May in the north to early July in the south. The planting must be at the right time, with weather and luck affecting whether the pumpkins will be big and solid or puny and soft.
3. Importance of agriculture: Throughout the world, agriculture is the most vital industry that sustains mankind. In America, until the late 19th Century, agriculture jobs were 80 percent of the workforce. Today, because of mechanization and big corporate farms, only 20 percent are involved in agriculture.
4. Work day involved at pumpkin farms: The visiting kids should be informed of the usual daily schedule. It requires rising at dawn, keeping the soil irrigated, hoeing to keep weeds away from the growing plant, fertilization and control of invasive insects without using polluting insecticide. The work day doesn’t end until sundown.
5. When the pumpkin blossoms appear in early summer, the farm family adds another task to their schedule. The blossoms open with sunrise and close with sunset. While they’re open, necessary pollinization by bees occurs. Many farmers keep beehives or rent bee services to do the pollinating. They must also protect the fragile bees from insecticide, preying insects, birds and other dangers.
6. Nutritional value of pumpkins: The bright orange color of pumpkins, as with carrots, indicate they contain beta-carotene, which is rich in vitamin A, and fights the potential of heart disease. It also is low in calories, as well as containing calcium, iron, potassium and other beneficial ingredients.
6. Pumpkin seeds: In Spanish, they’re called pepitas. They are most frequently roasted and served as snacks. The seeds also contail oil, which is used in salad dressings, vanilla ice cream and for cooking.
7. Traditions of jack o’lanterns: Carving pumpkin traditions may have started ten centuries ago in what is now Great Britain. Farm communities celebrated the autumn harvest by carving faces on large vegetables, such as yams, potatoes and beets and put them on doorsteps and in windows to scare away evil spirits. When immigrants came to America, they used the more substantial and colorful pumpkins for the same purpose, with the practice eventually being celebrated as All Hallow’s E’en, then shortened to Halloween.
As the comic strip hero, Charlie Brown, finds out every year, other kids can learn much and have a lot of fun during a visit to the pumpkin patch.