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Pumpkin is a gourd-like squash of the genus Cucurbita and the family Cucurbitaceae (which also includes gourds). In the United States and Canada it is a common name of or can refer to cultivars of any one of the species Cucurbita pepo, Cucurbita mixta, Cucurbita maxima, and Cucurbita moschata. 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.
The word pumpkin originates from the word pepon (πέπων), which is Greek for “large melon". The French adapted this word to pompon, which the British changed to pumpion and later American colonists changed that to the word we use today, "pumpkin".The origin of pumpkins is not definitively known, although they are thought to have originated in North America. The oldest evidence, pumpkin-related seeds dating between 7000 and 5500 B.C., were found in Mexico.Pumpkins are a squash-like fruit that range in size from less than 1 pound (0.45 kilograms) to over 1,000 pounds (453.59 kilograms).
Since some squash share the same botanical classifications as pumpkins, the names are frequently used interchangeably. In general, 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.
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 through 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 gray.
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 colorful flowers have extremely short life spans and may only open for as short a time as one day. 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.
Pumpkin is the fruit of the species Cucurbita pepo or Cucurbita mixta. It can refer to a specific variety of the species Cucurbita maxima or Cucurbita moschata, which are all of the genus Cucurbita and the family Cucurbitaceae.
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. Out of the seven continents, only Antarctica is unable to produce pumpkins; the biggest international producers of pumpkins include the United States, Mexico, India, and China. The traditional American pumpkin is the Connecticut Field variety.
Cultivation in the US
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 in the U.S. include Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and California. According to the Illinois Department of Agriculture, 95% of the U.S. crop intended for processing is grown in Illinois. Nestle produces 85% of the processed pumpkin in the U.S. In the fall of 2009, rain in Illinois devastated the Nestle crop, resulting in a shortage affecting the entire country during the Thanksgiving holiday season.
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 (7.62 centimeters) deep are at least 60 degrees Fahrenheit (15.5 degrees Celsius) 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 degrees (18.3 degrees Celsius); frost can be detrimental), and sandy soil or soil with poor water filtration.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 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 United States of America (US) 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. An opportunistic fungus is also sometimes blamed for abortions.
The largest pumpkins are Cucurbita maxima. They were cultivated from the hubbard squash genotype, crossed with kabocha-pumpkin types by enthusiast farmers through intermittent effort since the early 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. Eventually this phenotype graduated back into the public domain, except now it had the name Atlantic Giant on its record (see USDA PVP # 8500204).
Weigh-off competitions for giant pumpkins are a popular festival activity. 460 pounds (208.65 kilograms) held the world record for the largest pumpkin until 1981 when Howard Dill (of Nova Scotia) broke the record with a pumpkin near 500 pounds (226.80 kilograms). Dill patented the seeds used to grow this giant pumpkin, deeming them Dill’s Atlantic Giant seeds, and drawing growers from around the world. Dill is credited for all of the giant pumpkins today, most of which are borne from crossing and re-crossing his patented seed with other varieties. By 1994, the Giant Pumpkin crossed the 1,000-pound (453.59-kilogram) mark. The current world record holder is Christy Harp's 1,725-pound Atlantic giant pumpkin, which won the Ohio Valley Giant Pumpkin Growers annual weigh-off in Oct 2009. Harp's pumpkin beat the previous world record by Joe Jutras of Rhode Island in 2007 by 36 pounds.
|Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)|
|Energy||56 kJ (13 kcal)|
|Dietary fiber||0.5 g|
|Vitamin A equiv.||369 μg (41%)|
|- beta-carotene||3100 μg (29%)|
|Thiamine (Vit. B1)||0.05 mg (4%)|
|Riboflavin (Vit. B2)||0.110 mg (7%)|
|Niacin (Vit. B3)||0.6 mg (4%)|
|Pantothenic acid (B5)||0.298 mg (6%)|
|Vitamin B6||0.061 mg (5%)|
|Folate (Vit. B9)||16 μg (4%)|
|Vitamin C||9 mg (15%)|
|Vitamin E||1.06 mg (7%)|
|Calcium||21 mg (2%)|
|Iron||0.8 mg (6%)|
|Magnesium||12 mg (3%)|
|Phosphorus||44 mg (6%)|
|Potassium||340 mg (7%)|
|Sodium||1 mg (0%)|
|Zinc||0.32 mg (3%)|
|Percentages are relative to US recommendations for adults.|
Source: USDA Nutrient database
Pumpkins are very versatile in their uses for cooking, from the fleshy shell, to the seeds, to even the flowers; most parts of the pumpkin are edible. Traditionally, 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.
Pumpkins that are still small and green may be eaten in the same way as squash or zucchini. Pumpkins can also be mashed (similar to mashed potatoes) or incorporated into soup. In the Middle East, pumpkin is used for sweet dishes; a well-known sweet delicacy is called halawa yaqtin. In South Asian countries such as India, pumpkin is cooked with butter, sugar, and spices in a dish called kadu ka halwa. In Guangxi province, China, the leaves of the pumpkin plant are consumed as a cooked vegetable or in soups. In Australia, pumpkin is often roasted in conjunction with other vegetables. In Japan, small pumpkins are served in savory dishes, including tempura. In Myanmar, pumpkins are used in both in cooking and desserts (candied). The seeds are a popular sunflower seed substitute. In Thailand, small pumpkins are steamed with custard inside and served as a dessert. In Italy it can be used with cheeses as a savory stuffing for ravioli. Also, pumpkin can be used to flavor both alcoholic and nonalcoholic beverages.
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. In Kenya the pumpkin leaves are a popular vegetable in the Western and central regions called seveve or 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.
East China Normal University research on type-1 diabetic rats, published in July 2007, suggests that chemical compounds found in pumpkin promote regeneration of damaged pancreatic cells, resulting in increased bloodstream insulin levels. According to the research team leader, pumpkin extract may be "a very good product for pre-diabetic people, as well as those who already have diabetes," possibly reducing or eliminating the need for insulin injections for some type-1 diabetics. It is unknown whether pumpkin extract has any effect on diabetes mellitus type 2, as it was not the subject of the study.
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. Pumpkin seeds have many health benefits, some of which include a good source of protein, zinc, and other vitamins, and are even said to lower cholesterol. One gram of pumpkin seed protein contains as much tryptophan as a full glass of milk. Pumpkin seeds are a good source of magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, and phytosterols.
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. It is used in cooking in central and eastern Europe. It is considered a delicacy in Austria where a little is often added in traditional local cuisine on pumpkin soup and on potato salad. In some restaurants in Vienna they propose even to add a few drops on vanilla ice cream. Long believed to be a folk remedy for prostate problems, it has been claimed to combat benign prostatic hyperplasia. Pumpkin seed oil contains fatty acids that help maintain healthy blood vessels and nerves, and are loaded with essential fatty acids that help to maintain healthy blood vessels, nerves and tissues.
Canned pumpkin is often recommended by veterinarians as a dietary supplement for dogs and cats that are experiencing digestive problems. The high fiber content helps to aid proper digestion.
Activities involving pumpkins
Pumpkins are commonly carved into decorative lanterns called jack-o'-lanterns for the Halloween season in North America. Throughout Britain and Ireland, there is a long tradition of carving lanterns from vegetables, particularly the turnip, mangelwurzel, or swede. Not until 1837, however, does jack-o'-lantern appear as a term for a carved vegetable lantern, and the carved lantern does not become associated specifically with Halloween until 1866. Significantly, both occurred not in Britain or Ireland—but in North America. Historian David J. Skal writes,
- Although every modern chronicle of the holiday repeats the claim that vegetable lanterns were a time-honored component of Halloween celebrations in the British Isles, none gives any primary documentation. In fact, none of the major nineteenth-century chronicles of British holidays and folk customs make any mention whatsoever of carved lanterns in connection with Halloween. Neither do any of the standard works of the early twentieth century.
In the United States, the carved pumpkin was first associated with the harvest season in general, long before it became an emblem of Halloween.
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 breed and grow special varieties of pumpkin under specialized conditions in order to improve the pumpkin's chances of surviving a throw.
Pumpkin festivals and competitions
Pumpkin growers often compete to see whose pumpkins are the most massive. Festivals are often dedicated to the pumpkin and these competitions.
The town of Circleville, Ohio, holds a big festival each year, the Circleville Pumpkin Show. The town of Half Moon Bay, California, holds an annual Pumpkin and Arts Festival, drawing over 250,000 visitors each year and including the World Champion Pumpkin Weigh-Off. Farmers from all over the west compete to determine who can grow the greatest gourd. The winning pumpkin regularly tops the scale at more than 1200 pounds. The world record pumpkin in 2007 was 1689 pounds, grown by Joe Jutras in Topsfield, Massachusetts.
The town of 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) carved and lit pumpkins in one place: a record that the town held for several years before losing it to Boston, Massachusetts, in 2006. A large contributor of pumpkins to the Keene Pumpkin Fest in New Hampshire is local Keene State College, which hosts an event called Pumpkin Lobotomy on its main quad. Usually held the day before the festival itself, Pumpkin Lobotomy has the air of a large party, with the school providing pumpkins and carving instruments alike (though some students prefer to use their own) and music provided by college radio station WKNH.
Ireland's only Pumpkin Festival takes place each year in Virginia, County Cavan to find Ireland's biggest pumpkins. This year the biggest pumpkin topped 1300 pounds. The event takes place over a holiday weekend along with other entertainment and festive parades.
The city of Elk Grove, California, has held an annual Pumpkin Festival since 1995.
Folklore and fiction
There seems to be a strong connection in folklore and popular culture between pumpkins and the supernatural. Famous examples include the following:
- A commonplace motif of people being turned into pumpkins by witches.
- The Jack-o-lantern custom discussed above, which connects to Halloween lore about warding off demons.
- The Mother Goose story of Cinderella, in which the fairy godmother turns a pumpkin into a carriage, but it later reverts to a pumpkin.
- Linus' belief in the Great Pumpkin in Charles M. Schulz's comic strip Peanuts.
- The short story "Pumpkin Juice" by R. L. Stine, in which juice from a pumpkin has magical effects.
- The Harry Potter novels, in which pumpkin juice as a favorite drink of the students of Hogwart's School of Wizards and Witches is a recurring element.
- The pumpkin hurled by the "Headless Horseman" in Washington Irving's The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.
- Jack Pumpkinhead, a character in the Oz books of L. Frank Baum, with (obviously) a pumpkin for a head on a wooden body, brought to life in the second book.
- in Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas, the main character, Jack Skellington is "the Pumpkin King."
- Precious Ramotswe, the fictional detective from Botswana in The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series of novels by Scottish author Alexander McCall Smith, often cooks and eats pumpkin.
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Pumpkin with stalk.jpg
Pumpkin attached to a stalk
Giant Pumpkin Species.jpg
Common "Giant" Pumpkin variety
FemalePumpkinFlower closed small.jpg
Immature Female Pumpkin Flower
Garden jul2006 small.JPG
Male Pumpkin Flower (Open)
Keene pumpkin festival 1.jpg
A few of the tens of thousands of pumpkins on display at the 2000 Keene Pumpkin Fest
A pumpkin stem.
Pumpkins growing in a field
NKN-2007-09-01 125930 Pumpkins field (Yvan Leduc author for Wikipedia).jpg
Pumpkin — up close.
Pumpkins on a vegetable stall at Borough Market in London, England.
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- ^ http://www.askoxford.com/concise_oed/pumpkin?view=uk
- ^ a b c The Pumpkin Patch. 2007. Halloween Online. 19 Feb. 2008 <http://www.pumpkin-patch.com>.
- ^ "Pumpkin." The Columbia Encyclopedia. 2004. Credo Reference. 19 Feb. 2008 <http://www.credoreference.com/entry/4294972>.
- ^ a b Michael, Orsolek D., George L. Greaser, and Jayson K. Harper. "Pumpkin Production." Agricultural Alternatives (2000). Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences. 19 Feb. 2008 <http://agalternatives.psu.edu/crops/pumpkin/pumpkin.pdf>.
- ^ cucurbitaceae. (1995). In Van Nostrand's Scientific Encyclopedia (8th ed.). New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold.
- ^ a b pumpkin. (1992). In The Encyclopedia Americana International Edition. Danbury, Connecticut: Grolier Incorporated.
- ^ a b pumpkin. (2007). In Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved November 28, 2007, from Encyclopædia Britannica Online: http://www.search.eb.com/eb/article-9061895.
- ^ Pumpkin Nook: Color Me Pumpkin.
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- ^ Wolford, Ron, and Drusilla Banks. Pumpkins and More. 2008. University of Illinois Extension. 19 Feb. 2008 <http://www.urbanext.uiuc.edu/pumpkins>.
- ^ '"The Pumpkin Patch'," 2007. Halloween Online. 19 Feb. 2008 <http://www.pumpkin-patch.com>.
- ^ "Pumpkin Seeds." World's Healthiest Foods. 2008. The George Mateljan Foundation. 11 Feb. 2008 <http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=food&spicedbid=82#healthbenefits>.
- ^ a b Michael, Orsolek D., George L. Greaser, and Jayson K. Harper. "Pumpkin Production." Agricultural Alternatives (2000). Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences, 19 Feb. 2008 <http://agalternatives.psu.edu/crops/pumpkin/pumpkin.pdf>.
- ^ Wolford, Ron, and Drusilla Banks. Pumpkins and More. 2008. University of Illinois Extension. 19 Feb. 2008 <http://www.urbanext.uiuc.edu/pumpkins>.
- ^ Illinois Department of Agriculture, "Illinois Leads Nation in Pumpkin Production". <http://www.agr.state.il.us/newsrels/r1022041.html>
- ^ Jerry Hirsh, "Pumpkin pie may be scarce on Thanksgiving Day". LA Times (2009). <http://www.tennessean.com/article/20091119/BUSINESS01/911190366/Pumpkin-pie-may-be-scarce-on-Thanksgiving-Day>
- ^ Raver, Anne. "In the Pumpkin Patch, an Orange Thumb." New York Times, 18 Oct. 2007, p. F6.
- ^ "Ohio Salutes 1,725-Pound Pumpkin". Aol News. 2009-10-07. http://news.aol.com/article/christy-harps-1725-pound-pumpkin-takes/707341. Retrieved 2009-10-16.
- ^ Joe Jutras's 2007 then world record pumpkin
- ^ Roberts, Tammy. "The Many Uses of Pumpkin." Food & Fitness, 7 Aug. 2006. 10 Feb. 2008 <http://www.missourifamilies.org/features/nutritionarticles/nut107.htm>.
- ^ Stavely, Keith W.F. and Fitzgerald, Kathleen. America's Founding Food: The Story of New England Cooking. Chapel Hill, N.C.: University of North Carolian Press, 2004. ISBN 0807828947
- ^ "Pumpkin May Cut Injections for Diabetes". Daily Telegraph (London, UK: Telegraph Group). 9 July 2007. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/1556891/Pumpkin-may-cut-injections-for-diabetes.html. Retrieved 2008-10-02.
- ^ "Pumpkin Seeds." World's Healthiest Foods, 2008. The George Mateljan Foundation. 11 Feb. 2008 <http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=food&spicedbid=82#healthbenefits>.
- ^ "New Study Demonstrates Treatment of Anxiety Disorders using Pumpkin Seed"
- ^ Kreft S and Kreft M (2007) Physicochemical and physiological basis of dichromatic colour, Naturwissenschaften 94, 935-939. On-line PDF
- ^ Kaernbach C., Dörre C. (2006). On the color of transparent substances, in Current Psychological Research in Austria. Proceedings of the 7th scientific conference of the Austrian Psychological Society (ÖGP), Ed. B. Gula & O. Vitouch (Klagenfurt), 
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- ^ World's Healthiest Foods
- ^ Levin, Rachel (2008-09-17). "The Power of Pumpkin in All Its Parts". feature article. The Food Paper. http://www.thefoodpaper.com/features/health/pumpkins.html. Retrieved 2008-10-14.
- ^ Pumpkin for cats — pumpkin for dogs
- ^ They continue to be popular choices today as carved lanterns in Scotland and Northern Ireland, although the British purchased a million pumpkins for Halloween in 2004. "Pumpkins Passions", BBC, 31 October 2005. Retrieved on 19 October 2006. "Turnip battles with pumpkin for Hallowe'en", BBC, 28 October 2005. Retrieved 23 September 2007.
- ^ Nathaniel Hawthorne, "The Great Carbuncle," in Twice-Told Tales, 1837:
- Hide it [the great carbuncle] under thy cloak, say'st thou? Why, it will gleam through the holes, and make thee look like a jack-o'-lantern!
- ^ Daily News (Kingston, Ontario), November 1, 1866:
- The old time custom of keeping up Hallowe'en was not forgotten last night by the youngsters of the city. They had their maskings and their merry-makings, and perambulated the streets after dark in a way [that] was no doubt amusing to themselves. There was a great sacrifice of pumpkins from which to make transparent heads and face, lighted up by the unfailing two inches of tallow candle.
- It is an ancient Scottish custom to light great bonfires on Halloween and carry blazing fagots about on long poles; but in place of this, American boys delight in the funny grinning jack-o'-lanterns made of huge yellow pumpkins with a candle inside.
- ^ Skal, David J. (2002). Death Makes a Holiday: A Cultural History of Halloween. New York: Bloomsbury. p. 32. ISBN 158234230X. The earliest reference to associate carved vegetable lanterns with Halloween in Britain is Ruth Edna Kelley, The Book of Hallowe'en (1919), Chapter 8, which mentions turnip lanterns in Scotland.
- ^ As late as 1900, an article on Thanksgiving entertaining recommended a lit jack-o'-lantern as part of the festivities that encourage kids and families to join together to make their own jack-o-lanterns. "The Day We Celebrate: Thanksgiving Treated Gastronomically and Socially," The New York Times, Nov. 24, 1895, p. 27. "Odd Ornaments for Table," The New York Times, Oct. 21, 1900, p. 12.
- ^ History of Half-Moon Bay Pumpkin Festival
- ^ Gargantuan Gourd Weigh-Off
- ^ Joe Jutras's 2007 world record pumpkin
- ^ Morton Pumpkin Festival
- Pumpkin 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.
- 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.
- Pumpkin Recipes — Recipe suggestions for pumpkins.
- Pumpkin Carving
- Method for hand pollinating pumpkin flowers