The pumpkin has once again taken its place on doorsteps and storefront windows and invaded everything edible: Coffee, muffins, soup, pie, cereal, pancakes and candy bars, to name a few.

But why? Who decided the orange gourd would become the icon of autumn and star Halloween and the Thanksgiving dinner table? Why and when did it become such a popular flavor?

Pumpkin guru Cindy Ott might be able to help. The University of Delaware professor and author of "Pumpkin: The Curious History of an American Icon" can answer any and all questions about the beloved vegetable and its various roles, flavors and uses – from the pie and the jack-o’-lantern to the affectionate term of endearment and the 1000-pound giants.

Ott says it stems from Americans’ long-held and deeply felt veneration of nature and the small family farm, and the impacts of those beliefs and traditions on rural communities.

She is also an expert on American food and culture, environmental history, history and memory, material and visual culture and race and ethnicity studies.