Pumpkins, like other squash, are thought to have originated in North America. The oldest evidence, pumpkin-related seeds dating between 7000 and 5500 BC, were found in Mexico.
Since some squash share the same botanical classifications as pumpkins, the names are frequently used interchangeably. One often used botanical classification relies on the characteristics of the stems: pumpkin stems are more rigid, prickly, and angular (with an approximate five-degree angle) than squash stems, which are generally softer, more rounded, and more flared where joined to the fruit.
Male (top) and female (bottom) pumpkin flowers
Traditional C. pepo pumpkins generally weigh between 6 and 18 pounds (2.7 and 8.2 kg), though the largest cultivars (of the species C. maxima) regularly reach weights of over 75 pounds (34 kg).
The color 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.
The word pumpkin originates from the word pepon (πέπων), which is Greek for “large melon", something round and large. The French adapted this word to pompon, which the British changed to pumpion and later American colonists changed that to the word that is used today, "pumpkin".
The term "pumpkin" as it applies to winter squash has different meanings depending on variety and vernacular. In many areas, including North America and the United Kingdom, "pumpkin" traditionally refers to only certain round, orange varieties of winter squash, predominantly derived from Cucurbita pepo, while in Australian English, "pumpkin" can refer to winter squash of any appearance.
All pumpkins are winter squash: mature fruit of certain species in the genus Cucurbita. Characteristics commonly used to define "pumpkin" include smooth and slightly ribbed skin, and deep yellow to orange color. Circa 2005, white pumpkins had become increasingly popular in the United States. Other colors, including dark green (as with some oilseed pumpkins), also exist. The term “pumpkin” has no agreed upon botanical or scientific meaning, and is used interchangeably with "squash" and "winter squash" in some areas.
Distribution and habitation
Pumpkins are grown all around the world for a variety of reasons ranging from agricultural purposes (such as animal feed) to commercial and ornamental sales. Of the seven continents, only Antarctica is unable to produce pumpkins; the biggest international producers of pumpkins include the United States, Canada, Mexico, India, and China. The traditional American pumpkin is the Connecticut Field variety.
As one of the most popular crops in the United States, 1.5 billion pounds (680,000,000 kilograms) of pumpkins are produced each year.The top pumpkin-producing states include Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and California.
Pumpkins are a warm-weather crop that is usually planted in early July. The specific conditions necessary for growing pumpkins require that soil temperatures three inches (7.6 cm) deep are at least 60 °F (15.5 °C) and soil that holds water well. Pumpkin crops may suffer if there is a lack of water or because of cold temperatures (in this case, below 65 °F (18.3 °C); frost can be detrimental), and sandy soil with poor water retention or poorly drained soils that become waterlogged after heavy rain. Pumpkins are, however, rather hardy, and even if many leaves and portions of the vine are removed or damaged, the plant can very quickly re-grow secondary vines to replace what was removed.
Pumpkins produce both a male and female flower; honeybees play a significant role in fertilization. Pumpkins have historically been pollinated by the native squash bee Peponapis pruinosa, but this bee has declined, probably at least in part 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 U.S. Department of Agriculture. If there are inadequate bees for pollination, gardeners often have to hand pollinate. Inadequately pollinated pumpkins usually start growing but abort before full development.
Pumpkin pie is a popular way of preparing pumpkin. A can of pureed pumpkin, typically used as the main ingredient in pumpkin pie. 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 and Canada, pumpkin is a popular Halloween and Thanksgiving staple. Pumpkin purée is sometimes prepared and frozen for later use.
When ripe, the pumpkin can be boiled, baked, steamed, or roasted. In its native North America, it is a very important, traditional part of the autumn harvest, eaten mashed and making its way into soups and purees. Often, it is made into pie, various kinds of which are a traditional staple of the Canadian and American Thanksgiving holidays. In Canada, Mexico, the United States, Europe and China, the seeds are often roasted and eaten as a snack.
In the southwestern United States and Mexico, pumpkin and squash flowers are a popular and widely available food item. They may be used to garnish dishes, and they may be dredged in a batter then fried in oil. Pumpkin leaves are a popular vegetable in the Western and central regions of Kenya; they are called seveve, and are an ingredient of mukimo, respectively, whereas the pumpkin itself is usually boiled or steamed. The seeds are popular with children who roast them on a pan before eating them.
Commercially canned "pumpkin" puree and pumpkin pie fillings are often made with winter squashes other than the traditionally defined pumpkin, such as butternut squash.
Pumpkin seeds, also known as pepitas, are small, flat, green, edible seeds. Most pumpkin seeds are covered by a white husk, although some pumpkin varieties produce seeds without them. Pumpkin seeds are a popular snack that can be found hulled or semi-hulled at most grocery stores. However, roasting pumpkin seeds (usually scooped out of jack-o-lanterns) is a popular Halloween treat. Per ounce serving, pumpkin seeds are a good source of protein, magnesium, copper and zinc.
Pumpkin seed oil is a thick, green-red oil that is produced from roasted pumpkin seeds. When used for cooking or as a salad dressing, pumpkin seed oil is generally mixed with other oils because of its robust flavor. Used in cooking in central and eastern Europe, it is considered a delicacy in traditional local cuisines such as for pumpkin soup, potato salad or even vanilla ice cream. Pumpkin seed oil contains fatty acids, such as oleic acid and alpha-linolenic acid.
Coming Next.... the history of Halloween, why pumpkins?
Information from article wikipedia.com