As we all know, pumpkins were also among the foodstuffs served at the Pilgrims' first Thanksgiving and, in fact, for many years, members of the Church of England referred to Thanksgiving derisively as "St. Pompion's Day," pompion being the Old English nomenclature for the pumpkin. Edward Johnson, in his Wonder Working Providence of Scion's Saviour in New England of 1654, wrote that the pumpkin was "a fruit which the Lord fed his people with till corn and cattle increased," and the pumpkin was so widely regarded as a food crop in the Massachusetts colonies that Boston, before it was called Beantown, was known as Pumpkinshire.
By 1780, Yale students were referring to all New Englanders as "Pumpkin Heads," another derisive term derived from the law that required men's haircuts to conform to a cap placed over the head, the ubiquitous pumpkin shell often, apparently, being substituted for the far scarcer caps. Size also seems to have been a lifelong issue with the pumpkin in America, as, in 1699, Massachusetts farmer Paul Dudley boasted of having produced a specimen weighing 260 pounds and, in 1721, Joshua Hempsted of Connecticut noted in his farm diary: "Wednesday, 20th: saw a pumpkin 5 foot 11 inches round."
Plant this pretty pumpkin
The cultivar we recommend here, the delightful ‘Baby Boo,' is a pumpkin at entirely the other end of the dimensional spectrum. A miniature modern hybrid, ‘Baby Boo' weighs in at a tiny 2 to 3 inches around, with a true, squat, deeply ribbed, classic pumpkin shape. It is its coloration, however, that makes it genuinely remarkable, as, true to its name, this little darling is a ghostly white in hue. There is simply nothing prettier than to allow a vine or two of tiny ‘Baby Boos' to clamber up a trellis, the strikingly pale, tennis-ball-sized fruit brilliant against handsome green foliage and so pretty hanging pendant against the blue of sky or the green of other leaves.
'Baby Boo' will grow best in a moist soil with some compost or manure worked into it, and will need about 40 square feet of growing space, which is why I recommend some stout trellising. Therefore, after your frost date, plant 3 seeds together 1 inch deep, keeping them evenly moist and supplying a layer of straw ormulch, then thinning to the single best plant per 5 feet of trellising. Harvest in about 80 days. Why not honor our hospitable Native American ancestors by serving ‘Baby Boos' as individual "pompion pies": cut a hole in the top of each, remove the seeds, fill the cavity with chunks of apple, raisins, cinnamon, nutmeg, sugar, and milk, then bake till piping hot?
Excerpted from Alluring Lettuces by Jack Staub. Reprinted with permission of Gibbs Smith. Illustrations by Ellen Buchert from Alluring Lettuces by Jack Staub. Reprinted with permission of Gibbs Smith.