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October 28, 2010 / Malcolm Dalebö

About Pumpkins

 

  • Pumpkins belong to the Melon (Curcurbita) family.
  • They are typically orange or yellow and have many creases running from the stem to the bottom.
  • They have a thick shell on the outside, with seeds and pulp on the inside.

Know your Pumpkins – Botany

  • Pumpkins generally weigh 9–18 lbs (4–8 kg) with the largest (of the species C. maxima) capable of reaching a weight of over 75 lbs (34 kg).
  • The pumpkin varies greatly in shape, ranging from oblate to oblong.
  • The rind is smooth and usually lightly ribbed.
  • Although pumpkins are usually orange or yellow, some fruits are dark green, pale green, orange-yellow, white, red and grey.
  • Pumpkins are monoecious, having both male and female flowers on the same plant.
  • The female flower is distinguished by the small ovary at the base of the petals.
  • These bright and colourful flowers have extremely short life spans and may only open for as short a time as one day.
  • The colour of pumpkins is derived from the orange pigments abundant in them.
  • The main nutrients are lutein and both alpha and beta carotene, the latter of which generates vitamin A in the body.

Know your Pumpkins – Varieties

  • There are a wide range of varieties falling into these categories:

Cucurbita Moschata

 

  • This group of primarily squash includes the pumpkins frequently used for commercially canned pumpkins.
  • Commercial pumpkin varieties usually have a tan-coloured skin.

Cucurbita Pepo

 

  • These are the Jack-o-Lantern pumpkins you carve on Halloween, as well as the cute little miniature pumpkins that fit in the palm of your hand.
  • The traditional Jack O’Lantern is a particular variety officially known as the Connecticut Field Pumpkin.
  • Some of the most popular varieties include:
    • Connecticut Field pumpkin
    • Howden pumpkin
    • Howden Biggie
    • Jack B. Little Miniature pumpkins

Cucurbita Maxima

 

  • Maxima, as it’s name implies, are the giant pumpkins.
  • Giant pumpkin growing has become a very popular hobby.
  • Giant pumpkin growers are among the most devoted, and perhaps fanatical of gardeners.
  • The uniqueness of this variety lies in its production of fruits more massive than those produced by any other plant in the world.
  • Fruit can exceed 6 feet (1.8 m) in diameter.
  • The heaviest Atlantic Giant on record weighed 1,810.5 pounds (821.2 kg) and was grown in Wisconsin in 2010.
  • Popular giant pumpkin varieties include:
    • Atlantic Giant pumpkin
    • Big Max pumpkins

Know your Pumpkins – Cuisine

  • Pumpkins are very versatile in their uses for cooking.
  • Most parts of the pumpkin are edible, including the fleshy shell, the seeds, the leaves, and even the flowers.
  • In the United States, pumpkin is a very popular Halloween and Thanksgiving staple.
  • Although most people use store-bought canned pumpkin, homemade pumpkin purée can serve the same purpose.
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