Beyond Fall decorations, pumpkins have a diverse array of health benefits—from protecting us from cancer to cleansing us of intestinal parasites.

In North America, fall is the season of golden leaves, cozy sweaters, and pumpkins. Pumpkins were once far more than just decorations and flavoring for our favorite latte; they were an integral and bountiful food.

Native tribes have been growing pumpkins since at least 5,000 B.C., making them one of the oldest cultivated crops in North America. Archeologists discovered the oldest domesticated pumpkin seeds in Oaxaca, Mexico. Based on those findings, pumpkins are thought to have originated in Central America more than 7,500 years ago.

Pumpkins have long been cultivated for good reason, as they’re a hearty crop, grow quickly (about 100 days for the faster growing varieties), are harvested right before winter, store well, and are incredibly nutritious—meaning that they’re an excellent crop to keep you fed through winter and in times of scarcity.

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