October 5, 2017

Pumpkins

A pumpkin is a cultivar of a squash plant, most commonly of ‘Cucurbita pepo’. Large, round and orange, the thick shell contains the seeds and pulp. The orange flesh has a mild, sweet flavor and the seeds can be husked and roasted.

Native to North America, pumpkins are widely grown for commercial use and are used both in food and recreation.

HISTORY

Pumpkins, like other squash, are thought to have originated in North America. The oldest evidence, pumpkin-related seeds dating between 7000 and 5500 BC, was found in Mexico.

Today, pumpkins can be found well beyond North America.

VARIETIES

Common Ontario varieties include:

  • Howden
  • Funny Face
  • Connecticut Field
  • Prize-winner
  • Jackpot Hybrid
  • Trick or Treat
  • Bushkin

In the US, The traditional pumpkin used for jack-o-lanterns is the Connecticut Field variety.

pumpkinsPRODUCTION

In 2014, the top 3 pumpkin, squash and gourd producers (in volume) were:

  1. China
  2. India
  3. Russia

Canada was #32 on the list.

NUTRITION

1 serving of (raw) pumpkin = 1 cup (approximately 116 g)

  • contains approximately 30 calories
  • excellent source of Vitamin A, Thiamine and Riboflavin
  • good source of Vitamin C

Also, the seeds are rich in protein and a good source of iron.

BUYING AND STORING

BUYING

  • For Halloween pumpkins, look for a sturdy stem, a well-rounded shape and one that will stand properly
  • For cooking, look for a firm, smooth orange skin with a heavy feel for its size
  • Avoid cracks and bruises
  • Choose small to medium sized pumpkins, which usually have a finer texture and flavour

STORING

  • An unblemished, whole pumpkin can be stored in a cool, dry place for several months
  • Once a fresh pumpkin is cut up, it should be wrapped in plastic, refrigerated and used within five days.
  • Pumpkin can be cooked and frozen for up to 6 months.

POPULAR USES

  • made into soups and purees
  • baked into pies
  • the flesh can be boiled, steamed or roasted and included in a variety of dishes
  • the seeds can be roasted
  • carved into Jack-o’-lanterns

pumpkinsFUN FACTS

  • In the fairy tale ‘Cinderella’, the fairy godmother turns a pumpkin into a carriage, but at midnight it reverts to a pumpkin.
  • In Tim Burton’s ‘The Nightmare Before Christmas’, the main character, Jack Skellington, is ‘the Pumpkin King.’
  • Pumpkin flowers are edible.
  • Six of the seven continents can grow pumpkins. Antarctica is the only continent that they won’t grow in.
  • In early colonial times, pumpkins were used as an ingredient for the crust of pies, not the filling.

RECIPES

Coming soon!


SOURCES:

  • Wikipedia (October 2017). Pumpkin. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/pumpkin
  • Foodland Ontario. (October 2017) Pumpkin. Retrieved from https://www.ontario.ca/foodland/food/pumpkin
  • Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. (October 2017) FAOSTAT Data. Retrieved from http://www.fao.org/faostat/en/#data
  • Tyler Herbst, Sharon. (2001). The New Food Lover’s Companion (3rd ed.). New York: Barron’s Educational Series.
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