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The Flat Cap on ... Pumpkins

With Halloween fast approaching and the shops full of pumpkins The Flat Cap thought now was as good a time as any to find out more about this scary orange fruit. Well ok, maybe the fruit itself isn't scary, unless of course you suffer from a fear of pumpkins themselves, but the shapes it is fashioned into and the lanterns they lend themselves to are meant to be a bit scary. There is actually a word for the fear of pumpkins and it's "cucurbitophobia". The word derives from the Latin "cucurbita maxima" which represents the various members of the pumpkin family. And if you have a morbid fear of turning into a pumpkin then there's also a word for that; "apocolocynposis". Down at The Flat Cap's local pub there's a man with the nickname "Pumpkin Pete"; firstly on account of how he always like to dress up around Halloween, and secondly because he weighs about 300 lbs and has an all year round tan. Other than that there's no real resemblance. Pete's favourite drink is cider; proper cider, not one of those weird fruity ciders that have recently become fashionable and look more like fizzy Ribena. Some of them also taste like the iconic blackcurrant drink too - not good if you're trying to give up alcohol.

Anyway in order to find out more about pumpkins The Flat Cap did what he invariably does and went in search of someone who could provide some pumpkin friendly facts. Finding an expert isn't always easy. It's not like you can just walk into any big Asda or Tesco store and expect the nearest sales assistant to tell you all there is to know about each item of fruit or vegetable that they stock. And mostly The Flat Cap is too trusting, or too lazy, to question some of the facts he's provided with. Pumpkin Pete wouldn't be a great source of information, and certainly not after six or seven pints of cider. So The Flat Cap decided he would go to one of those country shows where people show off their fruit and vegetables, homemade jams and chutneys to see if there was a pumpkin expert.

A quick check of the local paper however drew a blank so he ventured along to the local allotments in search of anyone claiming to be full of pumpkin packed trivia. Like many of The Flat Cap's blogs what follows is peppered with the usual random nonsense that any ill prepared article contains. The Flat Cap has often thought he has all the skills to be a tabloid journalist, or a contributor to one of those shows on Radio 4 that only a handful of people listen to. Dozens of failed job applications to the more popular news outlets and the BBC would however suggest otherwise. Undaunted by his latest failed employment enquiry it was on with the boots and out on the latest fact finding mission.

Being October there weren't many people at the allotments but The Flat Cap did find his old friend Pete (not the Pete of pumpkin fame, but another Pete). For the purposes of this blog we'll refer to him as Allotment Pete. And over a cup of tea in the shed next to Allotment Pete's allotment the two men discussed fruit and vegetables and pumpkins in particular. Allotment Pete claimed his aunt Mary used to grow prize winning pumpkins and he recalled as a young child helping put one in a wheelbarrow; so great were his aunt Mary's growing skills. A fascinated Bert listened intently as Allotment Pete explained all about seedlings, soil types, proper drainage, propagation and pollination. Allotment Pete gave his friend a sheet of paper and a pencil for him to write down some interesting pumpkin facts, and The Flat Cap made a mental note to buy a pocket sized notebook to record this type of conversation, and the sort of detailed notes he would need if he ever wanted to be "a proper journalist" or Radio 4 contributor.

Allotment Pete's more interesting, and arguably more credible, musings are reproduced below:

  • Pumpkins can be grown anywhere in the world except Antarctica. To prove his point Allotment Pete said that you'd never see a penguin and a pumpkin in the same photograph

  • Pumpkins have been used for a variety of medicinal purposes - once upon a time they were thought to 'cure' freckles, have been used to treat snake bites. Allotment Pete claimed pumpkin seeds help avoid prostate cancer in men. When pressed further Allotment Pete wasn't sure how these remedies worked but reckoned that you would either ingest the pumpkin seeds or rub them on the affected area

  • Pumpkins are 90% water, and gluten free

  • The first pumpkins were grown in Central America

  • The first Thanksgiving feast took place in 1621 when stewed pumpkin was served up to the hungry pilgrims

  • Nowadays Americans prefer to eat pumpkin pie; the largest of which weighed a staggering 3,699 lbs, of which 1,212 pounds was the pumpkin filling

  • The National Trust holds an event called "Pumpkinfest" where for a modest fee you can scoop out and carve your own pumpkin

  • The current world record weight for a pumpkin is 2,624.6 lbs and was grown in Germany. Allotment Pete though his aunt Mary's biggest pumpkin was no more than around 150 lbs - definitely wheelbarrow size though

  • The seed used to grow the UK's biggest pumpkin cost £1,250, The pumpkin weighed 95 stones - around the same weight as four Pumpkin Petes or one average sized cow

  • Pumpkins get their colour from carotenoids, which as the name suggests is also the same organic pigment that gives carrots their colour

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