Connecticut Yankee

In actual fact, pumpkins vary.

Different varieties of the species Cucurbita pepo (C. pepo) can be gigantic or tiny, deeply ribbed or somewhat smooth, spherical, barrel-like, or just thick disks, reddish, tan, yellow or even white.

But the Halloween pumpkin of your dreams, the Great Pumpkin, the rotund orange jack-o’-lantern, is that a real pumpkin or a figment of American popular culture? The answer may surprise you. Not only is it a real pumpkin, but it comes from Connecticut.

Considering that Milford is the fifth oldest town in Connecticut, and that its fields originally fed a large part of the coastal population, this particular type of pumpkin might even have gotten its start in Milford. It’s bright orange and usually weighs in at 10-20 lbs., though it can get up to 50. In the seed catalogues, it’s named the Connecticut Field Pumpkin, and it’s the “picture-book” or “classic” variety of C. pepo grown by most commercial producers. Consider it a true Connecticut Yankee.

Look at how well it fits the state motto: Qui transtulit sustinet (He who, transplanted, sustains). It adapts well to different soils and climates, being cultivated all across the United States and the world. It’s hardy. Even if some of its leaves wither, or whole sections of its long vine are cut, it grows replacements. It reproduces well. All those seeds! It has staying power. Once picked, it can be kept under the right conditions for three to six months. Once cooked, it can be frozen or canned to last much longer.

Our Connecticut Yankee can be cooked in numerous different ways, every one of which has high food value for humans and other animals. Pumpkin flesh is sweet, but not fattening: It has calories roughly on a par with green beans, broccoli and carrots. One cup of mashed pumpkin equals or exceeds a typical multivitamin pill in its levels of beta-carotene (Vitamin A), phosphorus, and potassium. It also has a gram of fiber, which is only 4% of what’s recommended for humans per day, but does help digestion, and actually is enough to cure pets of common digestive problems. Some recent scientific studies show that pumpkin can be good for diabetics: Research is following those leads. Pumpkin seeds, treats in and of themselves, are healthy too, providing protein and necessary dietary metals such as copper, magnesium and zinc.

Globally adaptible, sustainable, and sustaining—aren’t those the characteristics we honor in this state? We have a state animal, mineral, shellfish and fish: Why not a state vegetable? Hot Air hereby nominates the Connecticut Field Pumpkin.

And as for Milford….Our forebears thrived on pumpkin, one of their bumper crops. The Oyster Festival comes annually in summer; maybe we should hold a Pumpkin Harvest Festival in the fall. Not the typical Halloween party that many towns have, with displays of pumpkins carved and decorated, flights of fancy. Instead, we’d have a Harvest Party with pumpkin ale and pumpkin eats, down-to-earth Connecticut Yankee sustenance.