Fun Vegetable Food Facts for Thanksgiving

As the Holiday season is upon us our gardens take backstage to family, friends and food.  As garden junkies looking at where our food comes from, it is always in the back of our minds.  As a fun conversation piece over the Thanksgiving table we wanted to see where our Thanksgiving meal comes from …

Time to enjoy produce from our gardens
Thanksgiving - A time to enjoy produce from our gardens (Photo: Collierville Victory Garden produce, Carl Wayne Hardeman MG Shelby County, Tennessee)

Sweet Potatoes:

  •  George Washington grew sweet potatoes at Mount Vernon
  • Native of South America – and domesticated more than 5,000 years ago
  • Sweet potatoes are roots – unlike regular potatoes which are tubers (underground stems)
  • Sweet potatoes, Ipomoea batatas, are not true yams, or members of Dioscorea spp
  • North Carolina’s State vegetable is the sweet potato
  • SP can be substituted in recipes that call for apple, squash, and white potatoes
Children harvest sweet potatoes at Collierville Victory Garden
Children harvest sweet potatoes at Collierville Victory Garden (Photo: Carl Wayne Hardeman, MG Shelby County, Tennessee)

Sweet potato source and reference links:


  • The top pumpkin production states are Illinois, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and California.
  • Pumpkins originated in Central America.
  • Pumpkins range in size from less than a pound to over 1,000 pounds.
  • Pumpkins are 90 percent water.
  • Pumpkins are fruit.
  • Eighty percent of the pumpkin supply in the United States is available in October.
  • In early colonial times, pumpkins were used as an ingredient for the crust of pies, not the filling.
  • Colonists sliced off pumpkin tops; removed seeds and filled the insides with milk, spices and honey. This was baked in hot ashes and is the origin of pumpkin pie.
  • The largest pumpkin pie ever made was over five feet in diameter and weighed over 350 pounds. It used 80 pounds of cooked pumpkin, 36 pounds of sugar, 12 dozen eggs and took six hours to bake.
Rouge vif D'Etampes pumpkin nestled in thyme in garden (Photo from: Debbie Courson Smith, MG Boise, Idaho)

Pumpkin source and reference links:


  • Potatoes were the first vegetable grown in space
  • Potatoes are the best-selling side dish in American restaurants
  • Potatoes have one of the first commodity groups to develop and use an FDA-approved nutrition label
  • French Fries were introduced to the U.S. when Thomas Jefferson served them in the White House during his Presidency of 1801-1809.
  • Potatoes were originally cultivated in South America, probably in Bolivia, Chile, and Peru. More than 400 years ago, the Inca Indians in those countries grew potatoes in their mountain valleys. They made a light floury mixture that they used to bake a potato-type bread.
The Royal Potato
The potato is a rather 'royal' vegetable (Photo from: Debbie Courson Smith, MG Boise, Idaho)

Potato source and reference links:

 Green Beans:

  • An estimated 40 million green bean casseroles are served on Thanksgiving
  • Green beans have been cultivated in Mexico for over 7,000 years
Green beans (Source: Flickr, Tony.Bailey)

Green bean source and reference links:

Thanksgiving Facts:

  • Thanksgiving was not declared a National Holiday by Congress until 1941
  • The first Thanksgiving was celebrated by the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag tribe Native Americans in 1621 and lasted for 3 days.
  • At the original Thanksgiving, there was no milk, cheese, bread, butter, mashed potatoes, corn or pumpkin pie.
  • President Thomas Jefferson did not like the idea of a national Thanksgiving Day.
  • The first Thanksgiving was celebrated in Plymouth, Massachusetts where the Plymouth Pilgrims were building on the land.
  • The famous Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade began in the 1920’s.

Thanksgiving Facts Source:

Have a happy and safe Thanksgiving!

We hope you have a happy and safe Thanksgiving.

For more information, search the web for ‘state extension food safety’ to find your nearest university food safety websites, or consult some of the following resources for more information on Thanksgiving food safety tips:

Terri James, Extension Assistant-Urban Gardening
University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension