[Sca-cooks] So, just what was a Pumpion?

Johnna Holloway johnnae at mac.com
Mon Nov 2 05:25:12 PST 2009

And the Florilegium doesn't satisfy their requests for recipes?

I think spelling varies as does what plant was being referred to at  
any one time or in any one place.

defines it as "The large fruit of a cucurbitaceous plant (Cucurbita  
Pepo); a pumpkin; also the plant itself.
1545 Elyot Dict., Pepo,..a kynde of Melones called Pompones

1555 Eden Decades 127 Gourdes melones cucumers pompons citrons.

1587 Harrison England ii. xiii. (1877) i. 259 An acre of  
ground..whereon to set cabbages..pompons, or such like stuffe.

1601 Holland Pliny xix. v. 14 Now when they exceed in greatnes, they  
be called Pepones, i. Melons or Pompons.
1573 Tusser Husb. (1878) 95 Herbes and rootes to boile or to butter...  
Pompions in May.
Florio in 1598's A vvorlde of wordes, or Most copious, and exact  
dictionarie in Italian and English, collected by Iohn Florio, includes:
a pompion, or a gourd. Also a salt-boxe, for that in Italie they vse  
to make of dried gourds saltboxes, bottles, or lanternes. It is also  
taken metapho|ricallie for a mans pate, head, braine, skonce, or nole,  
or skull. Also a kinde of wyne-measure. Also a skull, a head|piece, or  
steele-cap. Also a kinde of drinking glasse.
a meate made of pompions or gourds. Also a flim-flam tale, a tale  
without ryme or reason, or without head or foote.
a little gourd or pompion.
The herball or Generall historie of plantes. Gathered by Iohn Gerarde  
of London Master in Chirurgerie very much enlarged and amended by  
Thomas Iohnson citizen and apothecarye of London.
Gerard, John, 1545-1612., Johnson, Thomas, d. 1644,,
has this chapter. In part:
CHAP. 345. Of Melons, or Pompions

"1 Pepo maximus oblongus. The great long Pompion.

2 Pepo maximus rotundus. The great round Pompion.
3 Of this kinde there is also another Pompion like vnto the former in  
rough stalkes, and in gashed and nicked leaues: the floure is also  
great and yellow, like those of the others: the fruit is of a great  
bignesse, whose barke is full of little bunnies or hillie welts, as is  
the rinde of the Citron, which is in like manner yellow when it is ripe.

4 The fourth Pompion doth very much differ from the others in form:  
the stalks, leaues, and floures are like those of the rest: but the  
fruit is not long or round, but altogether broad, and in a manner flat  
like vnto a shield or buckler; thicker in the middle, thinner in the  
compasse, and curled or 〈◊〉 in certaine places about the edges,  
like the rugged or vneuen barke of the Pomecitron; the which rinde is  
very soft, thin, and white: the meat within is meetely hard and  
dureable. The seed is greater than that of the common Cucumber, in  
forme and colour all one.

‡ Macocks Virginiani, sive Pepo Virginianus. The Virginian Macocke,  
or Pompion.

‡ This hath rough cornered straked trailing branches proceeding from  
the roor, eight or nine foot long, or longer, and those againe diuided  
into other branches of a blackish greene colour, trailing, 〈◊〉,  
or running alongst the earth, couering a great deale of ground,  
sending forth broad 〈◊〉 rough leaues, on great grosse, long,  
rough, hairy foot-stalks, like and fully as big as the leaues of the  
common Pompion, with clasping tendrels and great broad shriueled  
yellow floures also like those of the common Pompion: the fruit  
succeedeth, growing a longst the stalkes, commonly not neere the root,  
but towards the vpper part or toppes of the branches, somewhat round,  
not exten|ding in length, but flat like a bowle, but not so bigge as  
an ordinarie bowle, beeing seldome foure inches broad, and three  
inches long, of a blackish greene colour when it is ripe. The sub| 
stance or eatable part is of a yellowish white colour, containing in  
the middest a great deale of pulpe or soft matter, wherein the seed  
lyeth in certaine rowes also, like the common Pompion, but smaller.  
The root is made of many whitish branches, creeping far abroad in the  
earth, and perish at the first approch of Winter.

3 Pepo maximus compressus. The great flat bottommed Pompion.

4 Pepo maximus clypeatus. The great buckler Pompion.

5 Pepo Indicus minor rotundus. The small round Indian Pompion.

6 Pepo Indicus angulosus. The cornered Indian Pompion.

Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America states
"Pumpkins The pumpkin (Curcurbita pepo) is thought to have originated  
in Central America about 5500 b.c.e. It was widely disseminated  
throughout North America in pre-Columbian times. With its thick shell  
and solid flesh, the pumpkin can be stored through the winter. Native  
Americans also preserved pumpkin by slicing and drying it.
Pumpkins were introduced into the Old World shortly after the first  
European explorations of the New World. They are mentioned in European  
works beginning in 1536. They were originally called pompions, or  
large gourds, and they were cultivated in England by the mid-sixteenth  
century, well before Thomas Hariot mentioned them in his Briefe and  
True Report of the New Found Land of Virginia (1588). Hence, English  
colonists were familiar with pumpkins prior to settling in North  
America and immediately began growing them when they arrived. Although  
pumpkins are related to squash, American colonists carefully  
distinguished between them and used them culinarily in different ways."


44 - Doce de abóbora. from  A Treatise of Portuguese Cuisine from the  
15th Century
(Portugal, 15th c. - Fernanda Gomes, trans.)
The original source can be found at Lochac Cooks' Guild Website
begins in translation "Pumpkin Compote. Obtain a very hard pumpkin,  
and cut it into pieces, whatever size and shape you like, peeling and  
cleaning them very well inside."

Pompion seeds or kernels are called for in the 1659 The Queens closet  


The queen-like closet;  By Hannah Wolley or Woolley. 1670.

XCIII. To make a Pompion-Pie.
Having your Paste ready in your Pan, put in your Pompion pared and cut  
in thin slices, then fill up your Pie with sharp Apples, and a little  
Pepper, and a little salt, then close it, and bake it, then butter it,  
and serve it in hot to the Table.

XCIV. To fry Pompion.
Cut it in thin Slices when it is pared, and steep it in Sack a while,  
then dip it in Eggs, and fry it in Butter, and put some Sack and  
Butter for Sauce, so serve it in with salt about the Dish Brims.


I worked on this entry, corrected it and supplied recipes to the entry  
a couple years ago. At one point they had credited Countess Alys with  
the 1655 Compleat Cook.


On Nov 1, 2009, at 11:18 PM, lilinah at earthlink.net wrote:

> 'Tis the season... for this to come around again on the gee-tar: On  
> our local cooks list, people have been asking for both period and  
> non-period pumpkin recipes.

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