The Pumpkin – An Oversized Berry

Pumpkins are assigned to the gourd family, which also includes cucumbers and watermelons. As pumpkins are indehiscent fruit featuring internal pips and hard skin they are in fact modified berries known in botany as pepoes, making them the largest berry in the world. They grow on weed-like creeper plants, which flower and have underlying ovaries. There are 15 different types of pumpkin overall, which in turn have numerous different sub-types. One of the most well-known types of pumpkin, the Hokkaido, is a winter squash; a sub-type which can weigh over 100 kg.

 

Food Facts Food Facts

Pumpkin

Class

Cucurbita

Calories

23 to 27 kcal per 100g (depending on type)

Nutrients

4.6g carbohydrates, 3g fibre, 0.3g fat, 1.4g protein per 100g

Season

September to November

Storage

store in a cool dry place, ideally between 10°C and 14°C

Shelf life

can last up to a year under ideal conditions

The Pumpkin – Origin and Preparation

Pumpkins originate from Central and South America, where they have been consumed for thousands of years. In fact, the oldest pumpkin seeds are 10,000 years old and were found as fossils in Mexico. Due to its sensitivity to cold, pumpkins predominantly grow in warm regions with plenty of rain and direct sunlight, but some types can flourish in colder climates. Aside from the Hokkaido, the most commonly cultivated types of pumpkin are butternut squash, hubbard squash and the pattypan squash.

Generally a distinction is made between pumpkins intended for consumption and pumpkins intended as decoration. While many pumpkins can be eaten, sometimes even with the skin, others should be used for decorative purposes only as they can be poisonous. They contain a bitter substance called cucurbitacin, which can cause stomach cramps and nausea. Culinary pumpkins on the other hand have a mild, sweet and slightly nutty flavour and, due to their texture once cooked, are ideal for making soups or purees.

Roasted in the oven with a little oil and the seasoning of your choice, pumpkin makes a great side dish that is ready to serve in about half an hour. Or how about a hearty pumpkin risotto? When it comes to cooking pumpkin, the options are almost endless. In the USA, pumpkin pie is a long standing culinary tradition, especially at Thanksgiving. Not surprising, as the sweet flavour of pumpkins harmonises with festive spices like cinnamon, cloves or cardamom, making it an ideal ingredient for sweet dishes.

Health Food: Pumpkin – A Triumph of Nutritional Value

Pumpkins not only taste good, but are also nutritionally valuable. Aside from being very low in calories and fat, they also contains important micronutrients, like a high amount of beta carotene, a vitamin A derivative. Additionally they provide plenty of potassium, iron, magnesium and calcium. These minerals are vital for numerous metabolic processes and contribute to strong bones and muscles, while the silicic acid ensures beautiful skin, strong nails and glossy hair.

Pumpkin seeds are also well-known for their health benefits: they contain valuable fatty acids and enzymes, which have a positive effect on the bladder and prostate. Available in most shops, they are great on their own as a snack or as a topping for soups and salads. Inky in colour and mild in flavour, pumpkin seed oil is a further pumpkin product full of health benefits that works well as a salad dressing. Both the oil and the seeds are made from the Styrian pumpkin, which is mainly cultivated for this purpose in Styria, Austria. By knocking on the pumpkin you can easily establish whether or not it is ripe – a hollow sound means the pumpkin is ripe.

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Pumpkin Recipes

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