Fall is upon us. There is no denying that once autumn rolls in, the pumpkin is the fruit of the season. They go together like peanut butter and jelly, salt and pepper, bacon and eggs, the perfect duo. The season of autumn is practically synonymous with the limited edition pumpkin-spice lattes, pumpkin bread, pumpkin cookies, and jack-o-lanterns we all love and enjoy. And of course, when Thanksgiving arrives, we whip out our tried-and-true pumpkin pie concoctions. And you'll be even more enamored by this October and November comfort food after you unearth the fascinating evolutionary history of these fruits.
The moniker that most Americans offer the iconic orange orbs technically refers to a number of other crops. The scientific name for these relative plants is Cucurbita, however the Cucurbita type that is most abundantly found in our vicinity is usually what we refer to as a "pumpkin."
Pumpkins have been referenced for many centuries. The Greek word "pepon," which denotes "big melon," is where the term "pumpkin" first emerged. The French nasalized "pepon" to form "pompon." Pompon was translated to "pumpion" by the English. The "pumpion" was a phrase used by Shakespeare in his play The Merry Wives of Windsor. The word "pumpion" was modified by American colonists into the word "pumpkin" we utilize nowadays.
Although the origin of pumpkins is still somewhat mysterious, they have been noticed blooming wild in some regions of northeastern Mexico. The oldest known record for the cultivation and use of pumpkins by humans comes from Mexico, where vestiges of squash and seeds have been unearthed in the Oaxaca valley and settlements in Tamaulipas, perhaps dating to 8750 BCE and 7000 BCE, respectively. Simply said, in the Mexican Highlands of Oaxaca, archaeologists unearthed the oldest domesticated pumpkin seeds. The first pumpkins were markedly different from the luscious, deep orange variant we are accustomed to. The first pumpkins had a bitter, sharp palate and were small and rigid.
Rather than using their nutrient-dense and easily accessible seeds, pre-Columbian natives grew pumpkins for their guts. After domestication, pumpkins were transported to other parts of the world by boat during the colonial era. The earliest evidence of pumpkins in Europe, for example, can be found in a prayer book made for Anne de Bretagne, the duchess of Brittany, between 1503 and 1508. Once domesticated, the crop produced larger fruit, developing more colors and sizes, compared with the wild plant
How Did Pumpkins Evolve?
Although we humans have a habit of imagining that we are the most genetically advanced species, plants are more promiscuous with their genomes than we are. And it turns out that the classic pumpkin descended from a mutant ancestor that resulted from the union of two separate species. This monstrous pumpkin finally evolved into what we all relish baking in our muffins throughout the fall since it had double as many chromosomes as a standard pumpkin . By sequencing the DNA of the mature pumpkin and contrasting it to those of other squashes in its family, geneticists were able to pinpoint this.
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