Pumpkin is like a squash that also includes in gourds and is from the Curcubitaceae family. Pumpkins have a very thick outer shell which are either orange or yellow in color containing seeds and pulp within.
In North America, pumpkin is usually called the winter squash. The word pumpkin originated from the word pepon which in Greek means large melon. Initially adapted from the French word pompon and changed to pumpion by the British and later American colonists changed the word to pumpkin. Origin not definitely known but thought to have originated in North America but evidences from history shows pumpkin related seeds from 7000 to 5500 BC were found in Mexico.
The size of a pumpkin can range from less than 1 pound (0.45 kgs) to over 1000 pounds (453.59 kgs). 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 4–8 kgs with the largest (of the species C. maxima) capable of reaching a weight of over 34 kg. They vary in shape, ranging from oblate to oblong and the rind is smooth and lightly ribbed. Although pumpkins are usually orange or yellow, some fruits are dark green, pale green, orange-yellow, white, red and gray. 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.
A variety of pumpkins are grown all around the world. India, United States, Mexico and China are biggest international producers of pumpkins. Pumpkins are very versatile and a variety of dishes can be prepared with this vegetable. A very popular dish vegetable prepared in southern India where the pumpkin is cut into small pieces and seasoned and fried until cooked and finally garnished with freshly grated coconut. It’s truly a yum recipe with a nice natural sweetness and spicy taste.
In the United States, pumpkin is a very popular Halloween and Thanksgiving staple vegetable. When ripe, the pumpkin can be boiled, baked, steamed, or roasted. It is a very important, traditional part of the autumn harvest, eaten mashed and made into soups and purees. Often, it is made into pie (popularly known as pumpkin pie), various kinds of which are a traditional staple of the Canadian and American Thanksgiving holiday. In Mexico and the U.S., the seeds are often roasted and eaten as a snack. The smaller or green pumpkins can be eaten in the same way as squash or zucchini.
Halawa Yaqtin in a well known sweet deliciacy in the Middle East made of pumpkin. In South Asian countries such as India, pumpkin (white variety) is cooked with butter, sugar, and spices in a dish called kadu ka halwa. Pumpkin is used to make sambar in Udupi cuisine, pudding, curry etc. Small pumpkins are steamed with custard inside and served as a dessert in Thailand and in Italy it can be used with cheeses as a savory stuffing for ravioli or risotto. Also, pumpkin can be used to flavor both alcoholic and nonalcoholic beverages.
Research studies have found that pumpkin promote regeneration of damaged pancreatic cells resulting in increased bloodstream insulin levels. Eating pumpkin has high health and nutrition benefits as they are rich in carotenoids that keep the immune system strong and healthy. As betacarotene is present in pumpkin, it is a powerful antioxidant and anti inflammatory agent that helps prevent builds up of cholesterol on the arterial walls reducing chances of strokes. Being loaded with potassium, helps in lowering the risk of hypertension.
The nutritional values per 100 g of raw pumpkin are:
Energy: 56 kJ (13 kcal)
Carbohydrates: 6.5 g
Sugars: 1.36 g
Dietary fiber: 0.5 g
Fat: 0.1 g
Protein: 1.0 g