HERB - the period pumpkin

khkeeler kkeeler at unlinfo.unl.edu
Thu Apr 30 06:33:48 PDT 1998

RAISYA wrote:

> Agnes,
> Your list includes pumpkins and winter squash in the C. moschata species, but
I don't have a feel for the plants--so I can only give you academic
information to work with.
There's a lot of current research on the New World cultivated
Cucurbitaceae, but if we're talking before 1492, then that's
irrelevant.  (At least the academics are very comfortable that the two
groups are separate).

If the cooks list discussed this, what did they conclude?
I looked at my garden and cook books and think its pretty clear than the
name pumpkin went from something European to the American vegetable.
In fact, it seems to me we're making our work harder by trying to work
it out in English language references.  CA White (Food and Drink in
England) lists new foods introduced into England in the 1500's: "the
coarse gourds of Medieval times..[gave way to] a new cooking gourd
introduced from France...the pompion or pumpkin...also from France came
a more delicate melon..the Elizabethans greatly admired musk melons. " 

Thomas Hill (the Gardeners Labyrinth,(orig 1577) ed. by R. Mabey, Oxford
U Press, 1987 ) speaks of pompons and mellons, quoting Greek and Roman
sources. "when these appear to exceed in bignesse, they are then named
Pompons, but they are growing round, and in forme of an Apple fashioned,
are by the bie-name of the Pompon and Apple, named Mellon Pompons...the
other kind, named Cytrons, be in form and colour like to the Citron, and
the leaves of the branches divided into many small parts after the form,
feathers or wings of Birds."  Mabey in the intro defines pompons as
melons.  Hill describes them as quite difficult to grow in England.

Finally, G. Castelvetro (The fruit, herbs and vegetables of Italy, orig
1611, G. Riley translator British Museum Natural History, 1989) speaks
of melons and cucumbers but also "the different kind of gourds" whose
popular name is "marine pumpkin" "some are green, some green and yellow,
somelong, some broad, while others are white and round and flat..."
"gourds are cooked the same way as marrows"..."In winter we make good
pies from these gourds or pumpkins."
Facing this discussion the translator has put a plate from Fuchs' herbal
(1542) of "Cucumer marinus" which if you'll give me an address I can
mail to you.

Although these sources are post 1492, there's no indication that the
melons/gourds etc. they are talking about are New World--while you can
find mention of New World foods in Castelvetro, 
they are passing references, not the sections he devotes to European
plants.  Hill isn't easy to find things in but tomatoes and potatoes and
sunflowers are not in any of the obvious plant lists (includng the
editor's notes on plant ids)

Grieve (a modern herbal) says: "the Pumpkin or Pompion (its older name,
of which Pumpkin is a corruption) is a native of the Levant.  Many
varieties are cultivated in gardens, both for ornament and culinary
use." but the context is confusing to me--she lumps all the "melons"
together and her Latin names are antiquated.  

Not knowing cucurbits well, I don't know from all this which of the
plants to point to.  The OED might identify the plant first called
pompion in England.  But I think a good French or Italian source would
be the best bet for asking what plant was called pumpkin/
pompion/ pompon traditionally.

kkeeler1 at unl.edu
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