What exactly is a pumpkin? A vegetable? No. A fruit? Yes! A fruit is defined as being the part of the plant which contains seeds. The average pumpkin contains about a cup of seeds, so they are most definitely a fruit.
A Rainbow of Colors & ShapesPumpkins come in a multitude of colors, shapes and sizes. There are green, yellow, red, white, blue and even multi-colored striped pumpkins. They can be huge, tiny, flat, short, tall, round, pear, necked, smooth, ribbed and even warty. Some pumpkins are fabulous for culinary uses. Some pumpkins are more suited to being carved or displayed.
A pumpkin is a member of the cucurbit (gourd) family. The cucurbit family includes pumpkins, squash, cucumbers, luffas, watermelons and melons. Most of the plants in this family are vines, however there are a few exceptions. There are four main species. Maxima, Pepo, Moschata and Mixta (also known as argyrosperma).
Here is some Pumpkin history:
The word pumpkin originated from the Greek word Pepõn which means large melon. The word gradually morphed by the French, English and then Americans into the word “pumpkin.” Pumpkins and squash are believed to have originated in the ancient Americas. These early pumpkins were not the traditional round orange upright Jack-O-Lantern fruit we think of today when you hear the word pumpkin. They were a crooked neck variety which stored well. Archeologists have determined that variations of squash and pumpkins were cultivated along river and creek banks along with sunflowers and beans. This took place long before the emergence of maize (corn). After maize was introduced, ancient farmers learned to grow squash with maize and beans using the “Three Sisters” tradition.
The Three Sisters are squash, corn and beans which grow and thrive together. Corn serves as the natural trellis for the beans to grow on. The beans roots set nitrogen in the soil to nourish the corn. The bean vines help to stabilize the corn stalks on windy days.
The squash plants shelter the shallow roots of the corn and shade the ground to discourage weeds and preserve moisture. Truly a symbiotic relationship. A common practice was to bury a small fish alongside the seeds at planting to nourish the “Three Sisters.”
The early Native American farmers were practicing an early form of sustainable agriculture. We can learn many lessons today from them. These early Native Americans roasted pumpkin strips over campfires and used them as a food source, long before the arrival of European explorers. Pumpkins helped The Native Americans make it through long cold winters.
They used the sweet flesh in numerous ways: roasted, baked, parched, boiled and dried. They ate pumpkin seeds and also used them as a medicine. The blossoms were added to stews. Dried pumpkin could be stored and ground into flour.
They dried the shells and used them as bowls and containers to store grain, beans and seeds. I have read where they pounded and dried the pumpkin flesh into strips, and wove the strips into mats which they used for trading purposes.
It is said that Columbus carried pumpkin seeds back with him to Europe. There they were used to feed pigs, but not as a human food source.
Pumpkins are so very good for you. They fit well into a health-conscious diet. And aside from that, they taste good!
Pumpkins are low in calories but high in fiber. They are also low in sodium. The seeds are high in protein, iron, and the B vitamins.
Pumpkins are very high in beta-carotene. Beta-carotene is an antioxident. It converts into Vitamin A, which is important to maintain a healthy body.
Researchers believe that eating a diet rich in beta-carotene may reduce the risk of heart disease and some cancers. They also believe it helps to delay aging.
So go ahead and have a slice of Pumpkin pie for breakfast.
1 cup of cooked pumpkin flesh contains:
Calories 49 Folate 21 mcg
Protein 2 grams Vitamin A 2650 IU
Carbohydrate 12 grams Vitamin E 3mg
Dietary Fiber 3 grams
Calcium 37 mg
Iron 1.4 mg
Magnesium 22 mg
Potassium 564 mg
Zinc 1 mg
Selenium .50 mg
Vitamin C 12 mg
Niacin 1 mg
Here is some Pumpkin facts:
There are four main species of cucurbits.
Some Pepos are eaten in the immature stage as thin-skinned summer squash. Most traditional Jack-o-lantern carving and baking pumpkins are of the Pepo species. Acorn squash and spaghetti squash are also part of this family. They have distinctive hard woody stems that have furrows in them. The pumpkins in this family are a deep or bright orange.
Maximas can get huge, and keep fairly well in storage. You can usually tell them from a Pepo or Moshata in that they have a spongy cork-like stem. Most winter squash are also part of this family. Varieties include Pink Banana, Buttercup, Hubbard and Turban.
Moshatas are excellent keepers. Their flesh is usually orange in color, sweet and refined. They store extremely well and are well suited for a multitude of recipes. Their stems are smooth and have deep ridges. Examples are the Cushaw Green and Gold and Butternut. Their color is usually tan or cream and they are elongated in shape.
Mixtas typically have pale yellow or cream-colored flesh. They are usually not quite as sweet or refined as a Moshata or Maxima. They are often stuffed or baked with brown sugar or maple syrup to complement their flavor. The above descriptions are general and I have found there can be many exceptions. Mixta are also known as argyrosperma.
Here are some awesome Pumpkin recipes:
- 4 eggs
- 1 2/3 cups granulated sugar
- 1 cup vegetable oil
- 15-ounce can pumpkin
- 2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened
- 1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
- 2 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Using an electric mixer at medium speed, combine the eggs, sugar, oil and pumpkin until light and fluffy. Stir together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, salt and baking soda. Add the dry ingredients to the pumpkin mixture and mix at low speed until thoroughly combined and the batter is smooth. Spread the batter into a greased 13 by 10-inch baking pan. Bake for 30 minutes. Let cool completely before frosting. Cut into bars.
To make the icing: Combine the cream cheese and butter in a medium bowl with an electric mixer until smooth. Add the sugar and mix at low speed until combined. Stir in the vanilla and mix again. Spread on cooled pumpkin bars.
Pumpkin Pie recipe
1 9-inch pie crust
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon allspice
¼ teaspoon salt
2 cups pureed cooked pumpkin
1 1/4 cups evaporated milk
3/4 cup egg whites, whipped
2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
- Preheat oven to 375°F.
- In a large bowl, combine sugars, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, allspice, and salt.
- In a separate large mixing bowl, combine pumpkin, milk, egg, and vanilla; whisk until smooth. Pour dry mixture into wet mixture and mix until just moistened.
- Pour into prepared pie crust and bake 50 to 60 minutes, until crust is golden and filling is set in the center when jiggled. Cool and serve.
I wish you all have a wonderful and safe Halloween.
- Dinner in a Pumpkin (capturesunshine.wordpress.com)
- Baked Pumpkin (adventureinsolarcooking.com)
- 20 Amazing Pumpkin Recipes (hungrylittlegirl.com)
- Salted Pumpkin Caramels (myownlittleplayground.com)
- 10 health benefits of pumpkin seeds (holykaw.alltop.com)
- How To Grow Pumpkin (simple-green-living.com)
- Pumpkin Cheesecake (morefoodpls.wordpress.com)