Five things about pumpkins

by Dr Andi
Publish date
29 October 2010
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I was initially surprised to see the American tradition of carved Halloween pumpkins at my local Australian supermarket. Then on second thought, I was not surprised at an American inspired commercial opportunity gaining yearly retail momentum.

The pumpkin carving was a tad amateurish; I suspect no one in the fresh food section had done one before. I wondered if I should give it a go, then I shuddered at the thought of accidentally impaling myself. I wonder how many pumpkin injuries are admitted to US hospitals.

There isn't much in Collections Online about Halloween - not surprising as Halloween is not a Victorian or Australian tradition. But when I searched the catalogues for ‘pumpkin’ - what joy! Here are the five best things I learnt about pumpkins.

1. Some pumpkins look more like zucchinis. The museum’s Economic Botany Collection includes wax fruits and specimens and preserves an amazing biodiversity of agricultural plants.

ST 017079, Cucurbit, White Pumpkin Model White Pumpkin model, made in India. Displayed at the Intercolonial Exhibition of 1875. (ST 017079)
Source: Museum Victoria

2. Pumpkins can grow to the size of small children.

MM 005670 A small boy with a giant pumpkin, circa 1925. From Australia's Biggest Family Album. (MM 5670)
Source: Museum Victoria

3. Native insects love the introduced pumpkin. A native Victorian insect had “forsaken” (their words) native vegetation for the introduced agricultural pumpkin (check out what they recommended you spray with - arsenate of lead, tar-impregnated water and sulphur!)

Display - Destructive Insect, Banded Pumpkin Beetle, Victoria, circa 1970 (HT 11387) Boxed botanical display of the Banded Pumpkin Beetle (Aulacophora hilaris). This was displayed at the old museum as part of a series about the destructive insects of Victoria and how to get rid of them. (HT 11387)
Source: Museum Victoria

 4. There's something called 'pumpkin polish'.

Floor Polisher - wooden, circa 1955 Floor Polisher, circa 1955, from Larundel Mental Hospital in Bundoora. Used in conjunction with Pumpkin Polish, presumably a brand of floor polish. (SH 850040)
Source: Museum Victoria

 5. You'll need one of these for your next pumpkin creation. Don't you love that it's called the 'Glamorizer'?!

Kitchen Magician Food Glamorizer (DOMESTIC LIFE), Object, Registered Kitchen Magician Food Glamorizer, circa 1963. The instructions tell you how to use this plastic tool for carrot curls, radish roses, lemon wheels and pumpkin faces. (SH 920993)
Image: Rodney Start
Source: Museum Victoria

What do you know about the nature and culture of pumpkins?

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Updates on what's happening at Melbourne Museum, the Immigration Museum, Scienceworks, the Royal Exhibition Building, and beyond.