Travel in north Georgia on any fall weekend and you are guaranteed to see pumpkins. While carved pumpkins are a special treat normally reserved for
Halloween, in the north Georgia mountains the pumpkin is an integral part of the fall display of color. Add a few corn stalks and perhaps some mums, and the sight is a beauty to behold!
Whether you like the traditional orange or tan pumpkins, or select one of the newer varieties including red, white or blue (yes, there is such a thing as a blue pumpkin) your choice of color is now virtually unlimited. The promiscuous pumpkin has a rather humble beginning.
Tiny "pumpkins" are actually gourds
Pumpkins were among the earliest cultivated plants in North America, dating to the early Archaic Indian era. Native Americans, including the Southeast Woodland Indians and Mississippian Moundbuilders grew them along with the pumpkin's half sister squash, corn (maize) and beans. The pumpkin was completely used by the First Americans, who preserved some seeds for planting, ate both the seeds and soft insides, used portions of the plant to feed animals, then used the colorful outside skin for seasonal decoration.
The name pumpkin, however, comes to us from the Greek islands courtesy of the French, who adopted "pepon" to "pompon," although this member of the squash family is definitely North American in origin. Columbus mentions finding it during his first journey to the New World.
Within a century of its discovered by Europeans, pumpkins were known throughout the civilized world. The pumpkin, like the potato, was an integral part of the so-called "agricultural revolution." Easy to grow and loaded with important vitamins and minerals, pumpkins quickly became a staple of the fall diet, especially for those less fortunate.
Varieties of pumpkins
Mammoth Gold Jack o'Lantern
Pumpkin Carving Traditionally, gourds and other fruit were carved to represent the end of the harvest season by a number of northern European cultures. Today it is impossible to determine where the tradition started, however, once the pumpkin was introduced into European culture, it quickly supplanted all other carved objects to represent the end of the harvest. The most popular story of how pumpkin carving originated comes from Ireland, however, there is no historic accuracy to the story.
The Great Pumpkin
Pumpkin Coach (from Cinderella)
Georgia Pumpkins Although the state of Georgia does produce some pumpkins, most of these are sold at roadside stands. Pumpkins commercially available are most likely from our northern neighbor, Tennessee. When selecting a pumpkin, look for one with firm stem and no bruising or cuts throughout the rest of the pumpkin. Once you have the pumpkin home, keep it in a cool, dry place. If you decide to carve the pumpkin (always a treat for the kids), do it a week or two before Halloween and cover it with a damp towel when its not lit.
Get into the fun of pumpkins:
Young child peers at a North Georgia pumpkin (Courtesy GDITT))
There are many ways to enjoy the autumn fun of pumpkins in North Georgia. The easiest would be to visit a pumpkin farm and one of our favorites is Berry Patch Farms in Woodstock, about half-way between Woodstock and Alpharetta on Arnold Mill Road. You can take a hayride out to the pumpkin patch, pick your own pumpkin and return for a glass of hot apple cider.
Another popular spot in north Georgia is Burt's Farm, across the street from Amicalola Falls. They, too, feature a ride to the pumpkin patch, with talking pumpkins along the way for the kids. One great thing about this trip is the scenic view of the pumpkin patch and Amicalola Falls in the background. This is a little longer ride, up Georgia 400 to Highway 136 West. At Georgia Highway 183 turn right, then right again on Georgia 52. You can also just go north to Highway 52 and avoid all the turns but you end up going through Dahlonega.