Cucurbita: Pumpkin, Squash

Family: Cucurbitaceae
Common name: Pumpkin, Squash, Gourd

Pumpkin is used in cuisines all over the world; cooked, baked, stewed, grilled, mashed or even eaten raw. There are 5 common species; C. moschata, C. pepo, Cucurbita argyrosperma, C. ficifolia and C. maxima, out of which Curcurbita Pepo is the most commonly grown one. They are also known as ‘winter squash’ since fully mature fruits can be stored for a very long time at normal temperature.

Most pumpkin plants grow as long vines along the ground, but seldom climb on other structures. The flowers are white and unisexual; either male or female. The female flowers grow into pumpkins; the male flowers produce pollen to fertilize female flowers. Pollination is mostly by insects, bees and butterflies.

The stem and leaves of pumpkin plant are hairy. The fruits are all distinguished by their thick, leathery exterior; and fleshy yellow interior with abundant flat seeds attached to the inside of the fruit. Fruit sizes vary between species, and sometimes, even on the same plant; some of them weighing as little as 250 grams and some weighing as much as 300kg.

Pumpkins are a good source of Vit A and C, and other nutrients depending on the variant. They are used in making curries, soups, bread, pies and puddings. Flowers and new shoots are also edible. The seeds can be eaten raw, roasted, made into flour or even used to make pumpkin seed oil.

Pumpkin plant also has medicinal uses; fruits being used to treat inflammations, burns and boils. It was also used in folk medicine in treatment of urinary tract infections and diabetes.

Propagation is from seeds.

Image Credits: Sonia Jerin Joseph, love4gardening

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