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11:57 PM Mon, Dec. 10th

Column: Pumpkins good for much more than pies

Do you want to grow as fat as a pumpkin? Yikes, I meant to say, Dear Readers, do you want to grow a fat pumpkin? We might all consider planting a few seeds next year, because not only if you win can you bake a whole lot of pies (6,000) but make a bunch of dough ($15,000 in prize money). This year's winner of the distinguished Largest Pumpkin in North America weighs in as a 2,145 pound beast! Yes, a farmer in Illinois takes the cake (pie).

Orange is the color of autumn and pumpkins are very American - having grown in America for over 5,000 years. Pumpkins are not only part of the Halloween decorating tradition, but they are one of this country's biggest symbols of autumn, Americana and Thanksgiving. We have a long, history with the pumpkin, dating back to when the Native Americans used the seeds for food and medicine.

Pumpkins are a fruit, in the squash or gourd family. Early settlers to America sliced off the pumpkin tips, removed the seeds and filled the insides with milk, spices and honey. This was then placed over a campfire and is considered the origin of pumpkin pie. In the 1800s, pumpkins were thought to be a remedy for curing snakebites and ridding people of freckles, by smearing the gooey insides of the pumpkins over the wound and face. Well, that didn't work and people soon realized that pumpkins were better suited in pies, soups or breads.

So how does someone grow a one-ton pumpkin? Perhaps the real question that needs answering is: could a pumpkin get that large without being pumped up on steroids? Hey, I hate to be cynical, but when one pumpkin is able to make six thousand pies, you have to wonder. Do pumpkin contests have the same rigorous testing as athletes? Oops, guess I answered my own question. When Olympic champions are confessing to juicing up and are forced to give back medals, how could we ever really know what lurks in the veins of that "plumped-up" pumpkin?

Oh, but I do love to see all those pumpkins (of normal sizes) being proudly displayed around yards and porches this time of year. It is the gentle reminder that autumn has arrived, cooler breezes are in the air and sweater-weather is almost here. It's also time to get out my famous pumpkin cookie recipes, which if we each ate just one a day, we'd be sure to weigh about as much as the "world's largest pumpkin."

I have one delicious recipe that has 600 evil calories per cookie! Yes, Dear Readers, one bite of my pumpkin dough cookie, with its pound of brown sugar, butter, pureed pumpkin and maple syrup is enough to send glucose levels to dangerous highs and arteries to immediate clog. They are completely scrumptious, dangerously fattening and should only be eaten at your own risk. Stop by and I'll give you a few.

A lady in Prescott emailed me to say that she proudly displayed pumpkins on the side of her front steps (15) on Marina Street in Prescott. Ever hear of dominos? A javelina was eating the pumpkin on the top step, which then caused the round gourd to roll down causing a "cascade of orange balls" thudding down the cement stairway, onto the street and eventually smashing onto the road. Pumpkins can be dangerous! Luckily, no one was hurt (except one lady who had a huge mess on her hands).

I read that a woman in rural Colorado had just baked a pumpkin pie and set it on her kitchen countertop. She went outside to pick a few flowers, leaving her outside door open. When she went back into the house, a hungry black bear was standing in her kitchen! The terrified (and clever) woman quickly tossed the bear the pie, which he immediately tasted. Happily, the big beast loved the pie and ran out the door. The lucky lady now claims her delicious pumpkin pie saved her life.

Pumpkins represent all things autumn and for some, it may even be a "life-saver." Take a walk on the wild side and make a pie, bake a cookie, be careful how you stack your pumpki+ns and watch out for bears! Oh My Gourd, harvest is coming.

Judy Bluhm is a writer and a local Realtor. Have a story or a comment? Email Judy at judy@judybluhm.com.