And the answer: China.
Trick or treat! China is the largest producer of pumpkins, growing 7-8 million tons per year. That's nearly half of all the pumpkins grown in the world—oh my gourd! However, China consumes the majority of their pumpkins rather than exporting them, with Spain as the world's largest pumpkin exporter.
Around the United States, pumpkins carved into jack-o-lanterns sit proudly on doorsteps awaiting Halloween. Yet, for as popular as they are, few know much about these well-loved staples of fall. For example, did you know that pumpkins are actually fruits, not vegetables? Along with cucumbers, tomatoes, and avocados, pumpkins come from the flowers of their plants, making them all fruits. Don’t fret—pumpkins are still technically “winter squashes,” but those too are a type of fruit! There are more than 45 different types of pumpkin, with names like Baby Bear, Spooktacular, Ghost Rider, Tricky Jack, and Sweetie Pie.
Pumpkins are native to Central America and Mexico, but were originally small, hard, and bitter fruits. Thankfully, Central and Native Americans selectively bred pumpkin plants over time to make them fleshier and sweeter. Good news, too, as every part of the pumpkin is edible, including the skin, leaves, flowers, and stem! Pumpkins and other squash blossoms can even be eaten raw, but most prefer to roast the skin or seeds with spices and other additions.
Did you know?
The original jack-o-lanterns were made out of turnips! As one Irish folk tale goes, “Stingy Jack” tried to trick the devil into paying for his bar tab. After Jack died, the devil wouldn’t let Jack cross over to the afterlife, and instead forced him to wander the Earth at night, lit by a single coal. He put his coal in a hollowed out turnip, and earned the nickname “Jack of the Lantern.” This Irish tale led to the tradition of carving turnips in Jack’s likeness, to keep him at bay.
Learn more about pumpkins here.