Pumpkins


Pumpkins
Pumpkins are a fall holiday essential.
See more pumpkin patch pictures.

Whether you want a home-grown jack-o'-lantern or you need materials for your Thanksgiving pumpkin pie, a pumpkin patch has what you need. In this article, we'll talk about growing pumpkins, selecting and serving pumpkins, and the health benefits of pumpkins.

Pumpkins are tender annuals with large leaves on branching vines that can grow 20 feet long. The male and female flowers grow on the same vine, and the fruit can weigh as much as 100 pounds.

Common Name: Pumpkin
Scientific Name: Cucurbita species
Hardiness: Very tender (harvest before first frost)

Up Next

In the next section, we'll show you how to grow your own pumpkin patch.



Want even more information about pumpkins? Try these links:

  • How to Carve a Pumpkin: The jack-o'-lantern is a quintessential element of Halloween celebrations. Learn about the basic carving tools and techniques.
  • Vegetable Gardens: Grow a full harvest of great vegetables this year.
  • Gardening: We answer your questions about all things that come from the garden.

Growing Pumpkins

Pumpkins
Pumpkins cannot survive frost,
so be sure you harvest your crop
before the weather turns.

Pumpkins are a fun, healthy, and easy-to-grow addition your vegetable garden -- as long as you have room for them. Pumpkins need a long growing season. They will grow almost anywhere in the United States, but in cooler areas you'll get better results with a smaller variety. Pumpkins are sensitive to cold soil and frost.

Plant them from seed two to three weeks after the average date of last frost, when the soil has warmed up. Bush varieties can be grown if space is limited. Pumpkins prefer well-drained soil that is high in organic matter. Too much fertilizer encourages the growth of vines rather than the production of fruit.

Plant seeds directly in the garden in inverted hills six feet apart. Plant several seeds per hill and thin to one plant in each hill. Thin seedlings at soil level to avoid disturbing the roots of the chosen survivor. Pumpkins need plenty of water to keep the fruit growing steadily.


Harvesting Pumpkins

The time from planting to harvest is 95 to 120 days. Leave the pumpkins on the vine as long as possible before frost. They become soft after freezing. Cut off the pumpkin with one or two inches of stem.

Types of Pumpkins
  • Bushkin, harvest at 95 days, produces bright orange, 10-pound fruit; it is good for limited space.
  • Jack Be Little, harvest at 95 days, produces 3-inch fruit.
  • Jack-O-Lantern, harvest at 110 days, has 10-inch, bright orange fruit.
  • Big Max, harvest at 120 days, has reddish pink skin and can weigh up to 100 pounds.
  • Jarradale, harvest at 97 days, has gray-white skin and sweet yellow flesh.
Pumpkins are practically synonymous with comfort food. In the next section, we'll teach you how to select and serve pumpkins.

Want even more information about pumpkins? Try these links:
  • How to Carve a Pumpkin: The jack-o'-lantern is a quintessential element of Halloween celebrations. Learn about the basic carving tools and techniques.
  • Vegetable Gardens: Grow a full harvest of great vegetables this year.
  • Gardening: We answer your questions about all things that come from the garden.

Selecting Pumpkins

Pumpkins are easy to grow, but how do you decide which pumpkins are the pick of the crop? Look for deep-orange pumpkins, free of cracks or soft spots. Though large pumpkins make the best jack-o'-lanterns, they tend to be tough and stringy, so they aren't the best for cooking -- try smaller ones, especially the ones called "sugar pumpkins."

A whole pumpkin keeps well for up to a month, if stored in a cool, dry spot. Once cut, wrap the pumpkin and place it in the refrigerator; it should keep for about a week.

Pumpkins
Pumpkin is a versatile food, great
in both savory and sweet recipes.

To prepare, wash off dirt, cut away the tough skin with a knife or a vegetable peeler, remove the seeds, then slice, dice, or cut the pulp into chunks. You might want to save the seeds; when toasted, they make a great snack.

Preparation and Serving Tips

Pumpkin pie is, without a doubt, Americans' favorite food use for pumpkin. But traditional preparation, with heavy cream and whole eggs, transforms a low-calorie food into one that's loaded with calories. Instead, substitute evaporated skim milk for the cream and use only one egg yolk for every two eggs the recipe calls for. You'll cut the fat to about 30 percent of calories, and we predict no one will know the difference. Leave out the crust, making a custard instead, like this hidden pumpkin pie recipe and you'll drop the calories even more.

Pumpkin can be used to make nutritious, delicious, and moist pumpkin chocolate chip cookies or bars. Likewise, you can substitute it for some of the fat in quick breads.

Pumpkin prepared via these nutrititous, low-fat recipes makes for a delicious yet healthy way to treat your taste buds.

Pumpkins are packed with beta-carotene, an important antioxidant. Keep reading to learn about the health benefits of eating pumpkins.

Want even more information about pumpkins? Try these links:
  • How to Carve a Pumpkin: The jack-o'-lantern is a quintessential element of Halloween celebrations. Learn about the basic carving tools and techniques.
  • Vegetable Gardens: Grow a full harvest of great vegetables this year.
  • Gardening: We answer your questions about all things that come from the garden.

Health Benefits of Pumpkins

No matter how health-conscious your eating habits, everyone needs a little dessert sometimes. Pumpkin is perfect when you want a healthy treat. That way, you can have all of the enjoyment without any of the guilt.

Pumpkins
Pumpkins are an excellent source of
beta-carotene.

The pumpkin is an American original. Pumpkins, belonging to the squash family, have an understated taste that lends itself well to a variety of dishes. Besides, pumpkins make a great fat substitute in baking.

Health Benefits

The distinctive bright orange color of pumpkin clearly indicates that it's an excellent source of that all-important
antioxidant beta-carotene. Research shows that people who eat a diet rich in beta-carotene are less likely to develop certain cancers than those who fail to include beta-carotene-rich foods in their diet. Pumpkin also has another carotenoid, beta-cryptoxanthin, which may decrease the risk of lung cancer in smokers.

Nutritional Value of Pumpkins
Serving Size: 1/2 cup, mashed, cooked
Calories 24
Fat 0 g
Saturated Fat 0 g
Cholesterol 0 mg
Carbohydrate 6 g
Protein 1 g
Dietary Fiber 1 g
Sodium 1 mg
Vitamin A 6,115 IU
Niacin 1 mg
Vitamin C 6 mg
Calcium 18 mg
Potassium 282 mg
Carotenoids 6,012 micrograms

Want even more information about pumpkins? Try these links:
  • How to Carve a Pumpkin: The jack-o'-lantern is a quintessential element of Halloween celebrations. Learn about the basic carving tools and techniques.
  • Nutrition: Find out how pumpkins fit in with your overall nutrition plan.
  • Vegetable Gardens: Grow a full harvest of great vegetables this year.
  • Gardening: We answer your questions about all things that come from the garden.
This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.