A pumpkin is a squash fruit, usually orange in color when ripe (although there are also white, red, and gray varieties). Pumpkins grow as a gourd from a trailing vine of the genus Cucurbita Cucurbitaceae. Cultivated in North America, continental Europe, Australia, India and some other countries, Cucurbita varieties include Curcurbita pepo, Cucurbita maxima, Cucurbita mixta, or Cucurbita moschata — all plants native to the Western hemisphere. The pumpkin varies greatly in form, being sometimes nearly globular, but more generally oblong or ovoid in shape. The rind is smooth and variable in colour. The larger kinds acquire a weight of 40 to 80 lb (18 to 36 kg) but smaller varieties are in vogue for garden culture. Pumpkins are a popular food, with their insides commonly eaten cooked and served in dishes such as pumpkin pie; the seeds can be roasted as a snack. Pumpkins are traditionally used to carve Jack-o'-lanterns for use in Halloween celebrations.
Pumpkins have historically been pollinated by the native squash bee Peponapis pruinosa, but this bee has declined, probably due to pesticide sensitivity, and today most commercial plantings are pollinated by honeybees. One hive per acre (4,000 m² per hive) is recommended by the US Department of Agriculture. Gardeners with a shortage of bees, however, often have to hand pollinate.
Inadequately pollinated pumpkins usually start growing but abort before full development. Often there is an opportunistic fungus that the gardener blames for the abortion, but the solution to this problem tends to be better pollination rather than fungicide.
Pumpkins are grown today in the US more for decoration than for food, and popular contests continually lead growers to vie for the world record for the largest pumpkin ever grown. Growers have many techniques, often secretive, including hand pollination, removal from the vines of all but one pumpkin, and injection of fertilizer or even milk directly into the vines with a hypodermic needle.
Pumpkins have male and female flowers, the latter distinguished by the small ovary at the base of the petals. The bright, colorful flowers are short-lived and may open for as little as one day.
Pumpkins are often used as forms of entertainment for children and adults alike, around Halloween.
The hulled or semi-hulled seeds of pumpkins can be roasted and eaten as a snack, similar to the sunflower seed. Pumpkin seeds can be prepared for eating by first separating them from the orange pumpkin flesh, then coating them in a generally salty sauce (Worcestershire sauce, for example), after which the seeds are distributed upon a baking sheet, and then cooked in an oven at a relatively low temperature for a long period of time.
Pumpkin seeds are a good source of iron, zinc, essential fatty acids, potassium, and magnesium. Pumpkin seeds may also promote prostate health since components in pumpkin seed oil appears to interrupt the triggering of prostate cell multiplication by testosterone and DHT. Removing the white hull of the pumpkin seed reveals an edible, green-colored seed inside that is commonly referred to as a pepita in North and South America.
When ripe, the pumpkin can be boiled, baked, or roasted, or made into various kinds of pie, alone or mixed with other fruit; while small and green it may be eaten in the same way as the vegetable marrow. It can also be eaten mashed or incorporated into soup.
- The pumpkin is related to the zucchini (courgette).
- The largest pumpkin on record weighed 1502 lbs (666 kg). The largest pumpkins are really squash, Cucurbita maxima. They were culminated from the hubbard squash genotype by enthusiast farmers through intermittent effort since the mid 1800s. As such germplasm is commercially provocative, a U.S. legal right was granted for the rounder phenotypes, levying them as constituting a variety, with the appellation "Atlantic Giant." Processually this phenotype graduated back into the public domain, except now it had the name Atlantic Giant on its record (see USDA PVP # 8500204).
- Pumpkins are orange because they contain massive amounts of lutein, alpha- and beta-carotene. These nutrients turn to vitamin A in the body.
- If you count the number of ridges on a pumpkin it will ALWAYS be an odd number. Consequently the number of lines between the ridges will always be even.
Activities involving pumpkins
Using pumpkins as lanterns at Halloween is based on an ancient Celtic custom brought to America by Irish immigrants. All Hallows Eve on 31 October marked the end of the old Celtic calendar year, and on that night hollowed-out turnips, beets and rutabagas with candles inside them were placed on windowsills and porches to welcome home the spirits of deceased ancestors and ward off evil spirits and a restless soul called "Stingy Jack," hence the name "Jack-o-lantern".
Pumpkin chucking is a competitive activity in which teams build various mechanical devices designed to throw a pumpkin as far as possible. Catapults, trebuchets, ballistas and air cannons are the most common mechanisms. Some pumpkin chuckers grow special varieties of pumpkin, bred and grown under special conditions intended to improve the pumpkin's chances of surviving being thrown.
Pumpkin growers often compete to see whose pumpkins are the most massive. Festivals are often dedicated to the pumpkin and these competitions.
Morton, Illinois, the self-declared pumpkin capital of the world,, has held a Pumpkin Festival since 1966. The town, where Nestlé's pumpkin packing plant is located (and where 90% of canned pumpkins eaten in the US are processed), hosts a variety of activities during the Pumpkin Festival, including carnival games and pumpkin-related food. In 2006, 70,000 people attended the festival.
in seeds on The worlds Healthiest Foods], The George Mateljan Foundation.
- Illinois Leads Nation in Pumpkin Production, Illinois Department of Agriculture.
- The Largest Pumpkin Ever, bigpumpkins.com.
- Keene Pumpkin Festival, list of world records.
Hugh Mc Mahon's pumpkin at www.gochelsea.com/pumpkins
- Squash Display at Missouri Botanical Garden - Pics of 150 varieties from The Great Pumpkin Patch, Arthur, IL
- Pumpkin Varieties - backyardgardener.com, site focused on North-Eastern U.S.
- April 2004 – In season describes several varieties available in Australia.
- Pumpkins - Lots and lots of Varieties! - American pumpkin varieties, arranged by species.
- Squashes and Pumpkins - Oregon State University. Arranged by species.
- Pumpkin Recipes - Recipe suggestions for pumpkins.
Hugh Mc Mahon's pumpkin carving www.gochelsea.com/pumpkins