Pumpkin: It's a Fruit!
A pumpkin is not a vegetable; it's a fruit! In fact, it's a berry. Pumpkins belong to the family Cucurbitaceae, which includes cucumbers, melons, squash, and gourds. Within this family is the genus Cucurbita which includes gourds, winter and summer squash, and all varieties of pumpkin.
Pumpkin is of high nutritional value. Not only does it offer versatility and convenience, but it can be considered a "health food".
The word pumpkin originates from the Greek word "pepon", meaning "large melon".
The bright orange color of pumpkin is a dead giveaway that pumpkin is loaded with an important antioxidant, beta-carotene. Beta-carotene is one of the plant carotenoids converted to vitamin A in the body. In the conversion to vitamin A, beta carotene performs many important functions in overall health. Pumpkin is also rich in the important mineral potassium.
Pumpkin is also a good source of Vitamin C which helps to fight infection. Vitamin C is a water soluble nutrient which needs to be replenished in the body, daily. Pumpkin is high in dietary fiber, which is often lacking in American diets. Fiber is important for proper digestion and elimination. Pumpkin contains about 40 calories per 1 cup serving.
Availability of Pumpkin
Canned pumpkin is on the grocery shelf, year round. When selecting fresh pumpkin, look for one that is firm and heavy for its size with a bright color. Rinds should be free of cracks, bruises, and decay.
Store pumpkin in a cool (50 to 60 degrees) dry area. Pumpkin will keep for several months if mature and stem is attached. One pound pumpkin (flesh) or other winter squash is equal to approximately one cup cooked pumpkin.
Adapted from various sources including Libby news releases and The Ohio State University's Ohio Squash and Pumpkin fact sheet.
Immature fruit will have more decay and loss of weight during storage than mature fruits. Smaller, pie pumpkin varieties such as the New England Sugar or Baby Pam are good to use for cooking because they have a sweeter flavor. Choose a pumpkin that is heavy for its size (about 3 to 5 pounds), has a hard rind, and is free of blemishes or bruises. A 3-1/2 pound pumpkin yields approximately 1 cup of pumpkin puree. You can bake, boil, steam, or pressure-cook fresh pumpkin.
- Pumpkins can grow as large as 1100 pounds.
- Pumpkin seeds can be roasted as a snack.
- Pumpkins contain potassium and Vitamin A.
- Pumpkins are used as feed for animals.
- Pumpkin flowers are edible.
- Pumpkins are used to make soups, pies and breads.
- Pumpkins are members of the vine crops family called cucurbits.
- Pumpkins originated in Central America.
- In early colonial times, pumpkins were used as an ingredient for the crust of pies, not the filling.
- Pumpkins were once recommended for removing freckles and curing snake bites.
- Pumpkins range in size from less than a pound to over 1,000 pounds.
- The Connecticut field variety is the traditional American pumpkin.
- Pumpkins are 90 percent water.
- Eighty percent of the pumpkin supply in the United States is available in October.
- In colonial times, Native Americans roasted long strips of pumpkin in an open fire.
- Colonists sliced off pumpkin tips; removed seeds and filled the insides with milk, spices and honey. This was baked in hot ashes and is the origin of pumpkin pie.
- Native Americans flattened strips of pumpkins, dried them and made mats.
- Native Americans called pumpkins "isqoutm squash".
- Native Americans used pumpkin seeds for food and medicine.
- It's easier to peel a pumpkin after it's been cooked. Cut the pumpkin into large cubes. Cover and steam over boiling water for about 7 minutes. Then peel the rind. Easier still, especially if you're going to mash the pulp, is to bake a whole pumpkin on a baking sheet (1-1/2 hours at 350 degrees for one that's 12 inches in diameter). Then cut off the top and scoop out the seeds.
Pumpkin's Medicinal Uses
- The medicinal part of the pumpkin is the seed. Bankole (1998) found that slaves used pumpkin seed with Indian hemp to treat yellow fever.
- Pumpkin seeds in modern thinking are an effective vermifuge for worms (Peirce 1999; Tyler 1985), although its use for this purpose is now rare (Wichtl 2004).
- The PDR for Herbs noted it has been approved for irritable bladder and prostrate complaints (Fleming 2000).
Common questions regarding pumpkin:
Q: Can I eat pumpkin raw?
A: Canned, pure pumpkin is thoroughly cooked during the canning process so it is perfectly safe and acceptable to enjoy straight from the can.
Qs: Once opened can I freeze pumpkin? How do I store it once opened? Once opened, how long does the pumpkin last?
As: Pumpkin may be stored in a sealed plastic container for one week in the refrigerator and up to three months in the freezer. When freezing, allow for head space at the top of the container as the pumpkin may expand when frozen. Pumpkin may have a separated appearance when thawed due to air bubbles. This will not affect the pumpkin quality or performance.
Q: Can I use past sell by date?
A: For optimum quality, freshness and best performance, it is not recommended using product after the "best before" pumpkin product.
Q: Is 100 percent pure pumpkin the same as solid pack pumpkin?
A: No changes were made to the actual pumpkin product.
If your favorite dark chocolate treat boosts your mood - but also boosts your waistline, try a handful of raw pumpkin seeds instead. Like chocolate, they're a good source of the amino acid tryptophan, which is a mood elevator - nature's healthy Prozac.
An ounce serves up 150 milligrams of immune system - and bone-strengthening magnesium, about half of your daily requirement.
So save pumpkin seeds for a healthful, iron-rich snack. Wash the fibers off, spread the seeds on a cookie sheet and toast in a preheated oven at 325 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes. To microwave the seeds, spread half a cup of them in a ring around the bottom of a 9-inch glass ovenware pie plate. Microwave on High, uncovered, for 2-1/2 to 3-1/2 minutes.
Roast up some pumpkin seeds for a heart-healthy treat. Pumpkin seeds are a good source of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), a healthy fat that reduces inflammation, improves blood vessel health, and has beneficial effects on blood fats. For extra flavor, before roasting toss the seeds with a tiny bit of olive oil and a few spices, such as garlic, cayenne pepper, or lemon pepper.Serving Suggestions: Buy pumpkin seeds in bulk, and toss them into salads and soups. Or add unsalted, raw seeds to the tops of muffins before baking.
Toasted Pepitas Recipe
1/2 cup fresh pumpkin seeds
3/4 teaspoon canola oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the pumpkin seeds, oil and salt on a baking sheet and toss well. Transfer to the oven and bake until just lightly toasted, about 15 minutes. Set aside to cool. Makes 4 servings.
Nutrition information per 2-tablespoon serving: Calories: 101; Calories from Fat: 79; Fat: 8.8g; Saturated Fat: 1.6g; Cholesterol: 0mg; Sodium: 3mg; Carbohydrates: 3.1g; Dietary Fiber: 0.7g; Protein: 4.2g
Did You Know?
Pepitas - or pumpkin seeds - are thought to be an aphrodisiac.
Making Pumpkins Grow Fast
A good way of hustling the growth of pumpkins, marrows, etc., is to feed the fruits with water. It is only needful to secure some pieces of round lamp wick. Holes are made in the stalk of the fruit and, into these, one end of the wick is inserted. The other end of the wick rests in a jar of water which is kept well supplied. The pumpkins grow at twice the rate they do normally and are ready for cutting much sooner. In this way the produce secured from the plant is largely increased. The plan is well worth following out.
Source: S. Leonard Bastin from: The Garden Magazine, June 1918
Preserve Your Halloween Pumpkin
To preserve a Halloween pumpkin, just spray the inside and outside surfaces with an antiseptic spray to kill bacteria and keep the pumpkin in better shape.
Pumpkin Pudding Facial
Pumpkin's orange hue comes from carotenoids, wrinkle-fighting plant pigments. Plus, pumpkin has hydrating properties. So, smooth it on! In a food processor or blender, combine 2 cups canned pumpkin, 4 tablespoons low-fat vanilla yogurt, 4 tablespoons honey and 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice. Coat face; leave on for 10 minutes, then rinse. This is great for hydrating and softening skin naturally.
- A pumpkin is not a vegetable; it's a fruit!
- Is loaded with an important antioxidant, beta-carotene.
- Contain Vitamins A, B, E and potassium, protein & fiber.
- White pumpkin is said to be an excellent brain tonic as it said to enhance memory.
- The juice beats the heat in summer and relieves thirst and urinary retention.
- Low in calories (49 calories per 1-cup), high in fiber and contains protein.
Pumpkin Mashed Potatoes Recipe Card
- Pumpkin Muffins
- Golden Pumpkin Bread
- Pumpkin Ring
- Pumpkin Spice Dessert Bars
- Pumpkin Chiffon Torte
- Pumpkin Cream Cheese Spread
- Pumpkin Apple Bread
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