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The pumpkin

The pumpkin

The pumpkin is a gourd-like squash of the genus Cucurbita (and the family Cucurbitaceae). A total of five species are cultured, and these would be the fig leaf gourd, Buttercup squash, Butternut squash, Zucchini, and cushaw pumpkin.

In addition to the properties of the pumpkin, it must be mentioned that it is an annual, herbaceous plant. Its roots run like threads and the resulting growing stems are flat or procumbent or climbing. The vines brachiate, on average, three to seven-fold and this is becomes apparent with a good look at a pumpkin field. Furthermore, the pumpkin has wonderful golden flowers that grow on long stalks and are about ten centimeters in size. The shape, size and color can not be generally defined, since they are dependent on how the respective species is cultured. It is noted, that wild gourd species have a long-enduring, very woody, and therefore hard, pericarp. The seeds of different pumpkin varieties are oval and, on average average, two millimeters thick and two centimeters long.

Originally native to American soil, the pumpkin has now spread almost worldwide and is more popular than ever. Especially in the warmer areas, the pumpkin is very popular. Certain varieties can even be at home in cool, cloud forests. In principle, however, the pumpkin requires much sun and regulated rainy and dry periods. The germination of the seed occurs in the rainy season. Therefore, the natural sites include river and flood plains, as the ground of sandy soils, lowland soils and gravel soils is especially suitable.

In general, only five varieties will be used. Of these, however, only the Zucchini, the Buttercup squash, and the Cucurbita moschata are grown nationwide. The other two, the fig leaf gourd and cushaw pumpkin, can only be grown in certain regions. Since the 16th century, a pumpkin native to America, has been used in the warm regions of Europe. The pumpkin is used for cooking, frying or baking. One particular specialty in America is the traditional pumpkin pie. In addition to the pulp, the shoot tips, leaves and seeds are processed. The shoot tips and the leaves, however, rarely find their place in the kitchen, while the seeds are used more often. First, the seeds can be dried and eaten as a delicious snack, and second, the seeds for the production of the widely used, and widely popular all over Austria, pumpkin seed oil. Especially in the province of Styria, there is a specially cultivated oil squash, cultivated to have shell-less seeds. The pumpkin is also used in "folk medicine". Other uses of the pumpkin, such as what are certainly not culinary, include the traditional pumpkin-carving for Halloween. Even for this custom, there is a specially cultivated variety, which was labeled with the name "Jack-o-Lantern". Furthermore, on a yearly basis all over the world, competitions concerning the largest weight of a pumpkin are held. In this course of a competition, the heaviest pumpkin ever grown, had a weight of about ten times that of an adult person. Another custom is pumpkin throwing.

To the history of the pumpkin, it can be added that recent findings indicate that the pumpkin was already found in nature since about 8000-10000 BC. To see where the pumpkin comes from, we briefly describe the individual countries of origin of known types of squash. The zucchini, as well as the Buttercup squash, is from South America and Mexico, the butternut squash is from Central America. It is believed that, originally, the only pumpkin varieties which were used were ones that did not have bitter-tasting seeds. This is how the pumpkin should have come to be used as a vegetable.

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