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Oklahoma Agriculture in the Classroom



Oklahoma Vegetable of the Month: Pumpkin


Pumpkin is definitely an October food, since 80 percent of the pumpkin supply in our country is available in October. Since the most common way to eat them is in pie, most of us think of pumpkins as fruit, but the pumpkin is actually a vegetable - a cucurbit - like squash, cucumbers and watermelon.

Pumpkins were an important crop to some of the first known residents of present Oklahoma, the Wichita people who were settled along the Red River when European explorers and traders first encountered them in present Oklahoma.

Pumpkin Punch Bowl

Here's a great way to combine our fruit and vegetable of the month:

  • Thoroughly clean out a pumpkin, making sure to remove all the pulpy strings.
  • Paint a jack-o-lantern face on the outside, using markers.
  • Refrigerate the pumpkin until you are ready to serve.
  • Pour cold cider in your pumpkin punch bowl.
Play With Your Food: Pumpkin Globe

(From Illinois Ag in the Classroom)

  1. Using a world map or globe, discuss longitude, latitude and hemispheres.
  2. Divide students into groups of 2-3, and give each group a pumpkin.
  3. Students will use their pumpkin to represent the earth and draw latitude lines at 10-degree increments.
  4. Students will use the vertical lines on pumpkins to represent the longitude lines on a map or globe. Students will draw longitude lines on their pumpkins at 10-degree increments.
  5. Students will find the north, south, east and west hemispheres on their pumpkin globes.
  6. Students will paint continents on their pumpkins with tempera paint and let it dry for one hour.
  7. Students will paint the bodies of water on the pumpkins and let them dry overnight.
  8. Discuss how the pumpkin globes are similar/different from manufactured globes.
Play With Your Food: Pumpkin Guts
  • Students guess what they think is inside the pumpkin.
  • Carve a hole in the top with a sharp knive.
  • Each students reaches in and pulls out some of the pumpkin guts.
  • As students put their hands inside the pumpkin, they each say a word that describes how it feels.
  • Take pictures of students with their hands inside pumpkins as they are clearing out the pulp and seeds.
More Pumpkin Activities
  • Students arrange pumpkins from largest to smallest then from smallest to largest.
  • Students sort pumpkins into smoth and lumpy groups and make charts showing how many are in each group.
  • Students make up progressive stories about pumpkins, with each student adding something to the story. Read the story as a class.
  • Make Roasted Pumpkin Seeds.
  • Have pumpkin races, with students carry pumpkins as they race.
  • Play "Whose Pumpkin Am I?" Each student must find one thing about his/her pumpkin that will help him/her identify it in a large group of other pumpkins.
  • Plant pumpkin seeds and watch them grow.

Helpful tip to make jack-o-lanterns last longer: Spray a mixture of bleach and water on the inside of your pumpkin daily, or coat the inside with petroleum jelly to keep mold and dehydration at bay.

Writing Prompt

Students write detailed descriptions of a pumpkin.

Be a Food Explorer: Pumpkin Soup
For pottage and puddings
and custards and pies,
Our pumpkins and parsnips
are common supplies,
We have pumpkins at morning
and pumpkins at noon,
If it were not for pumpkins
we should be undoon.
—Pilgrim verse, circa 1630

Your students will be most familiar with pumpkin as a dessert, in the form of pumpkin pie or pumpkin bread. As desserts go, pumpkin pie is one that is actually good for you, but help your students think of pumpkin as a vegetable by preparing and serving pumpkin soup. This recipe, from The Joy of Cooking, makes use of ham, in celebration of National Pork Month.

  1. Place 3 cups canned or 2 cups cooked pureed fresh pumpkin in 3 cups scalded milk or chicken broth. Knead together and add 1 tablespoon butter and 1 tablespoon flour. Add 1 tablespoon sugar or 2 tablespoons brown sugar, salt and pepper, 1/2 t ginger and 1 t cinnamon, and 1/2 cup finely diced ham. Heat but do not boil. This makes about 6 cups.
  2. Prepare fresh pumpkin by washing and cutting a pumpkin in half crosswise and scooping out the strings and seeds. Place the halves shell side up on a baking sheet and bake at 325 degrees F for 1 hour or more. Puree in a blender. Small pumpkins are best for eating.
  3. If you're scooping out pumpkins to make jack-o-lanterns, don't forget to save the seeds to eat. Rinse the seeds in a colander and separate them as much as possible from the pulp. Soak them overnight in salt water. Drain and place on a baking sheet. Bake for 10-15 minutes in a 400 degree oven. Eat them like sunflower seeds.

And if you can't wait for Thanksgiving to have pumpkin pie, try Pumpkin Pie in a Bag.

Specialty Crop Vignette, Zena Lewis, Owasso (Demonstration of Pumpkin Pie in a Bag)

Herbert Hoover and the The Great Pumpkin Wars

My uncle always raised a large quantity of pumpkins to feed the dairy cows. These would be brought in from the fields and piled in a pyramid, as much as twenty feet high by fifty feet, or more, long. We were allowed to do whatever we liked with all the pumpkins, as long as we cleaned up the debris at the end of the day and placed it in the troughs for the cows when they came home out of the woods at milking time. So we made "Jack-o-lanterns" of every sort our fancy could conceive, and arranged them by companies and battalions and brigades. Then we attacked them, foot and horse, with a corn-cutter, a weapon like a machete or a Circassion sword, and annihilated the whole army. There was no limit to the slaughter save from physical exhaustion with the rather hard chopping. It seems to me I had a companion in those battles, but his face is veiled to me now; it was probably Herbert Clark Hoover.

Pumpkin (1/2 cup, cooked)
amounts per serving
% daily value
calories from fat
total fat
total carbohydrate
dietary fiber
Vitamin A
Vitamin C
Percent daily values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet.
Duke, Kate, Ready for Pumpkins, Alfred A. Knopf, 2012. (Grades K-2)
Hercules is a first-grade rodent, in a multilayered tale about time, the seasons and the long, impatient wait for a full-grown pumpkin to pick. When the teacher takes Herky to her country home for the summer, he discovers his horticultural side. Especially marvelous is what Herky's accomplishment shows children: animals and plants have lives and life cycles of their own. (New York Timesreview)
Farmer, Jacqueline, Pumpkins, Charlesbridge, 2004.
Facts, history, legend, and growing tips about one of the favorite fruits of fall. In addition to instructions on pumpkin carving (and safety) and seed toasting, the author includes the word for the berry in other languages, a brief list of pumpkin world records, and recommended readings and Web sites.
McKy, Katie, and Pablo Bernasconi, Pumpkin Town! or, Nothing is Better and Worse Than Pumpkins, Sandpiper, 2008. (Grades PreK-2)
After five brothers accidentally spill seeds over a small town, they feel responsible when pumpkins and vines begin to overrun the houses the next year.
McNamara, Margaret, and G. Brian Karas, How Many Seeds in a Pumpkin?, Schwartz and Wade, 2007. (Grades PreK-2)
The story teaches math and science concepts while modeling kind behavior. The author introduces counting by twos, fives and tens and includes pumpkin facts, e.g., the more lines on the pumpkin, the more seeds it will have.
Pfeffer, Wendy, and James Graham Hale, From Seed to Pumpkin, Collins, 2004. (Grades PreK-2)
Accurately depicts germination, pumpkins growing and still green, pumpkins changing colors and uses for pumpkins.
Robbins, Ken, Pumpkins, Square Fish, 2007. (Grades PreK-3)
The author documents the life cycle of a pumpkin with close-up, naturalistic photos and clear, simple text. He discusses the wide variety of pumpkin colors and sizes. Basic instructions are included for carving a jack-o-lantern, with adult help suggested. The next year's crop, ensured by the pumpkins and their seeds left to rot in the field, is the focus of the last spread.