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What Are Pumpkins?
Pumpkins, squash, and gourds are all part of the Cucurbitaceae family, according to the Missouri Botanical Garden. This large plant family includes more than 900 species, including everything from orange pumpkins, to watermelons, to cucumbers. The genus Cucurbita (aka “squash”) falls under this family, so yes, your traditional orange pumpkin is also a winter squash (not to be confused with soft-skinned summer squash, such as zucchini). Ready for the surprise? In the United States, any round, orange squash may be called a pumpkin, but the term “pumpkin” actually has no botanical meaning. Similarly, “gourd” is the conventional term used for plants in the genera Cucurbita (“squash”) and Lagenaria, so a pumpkin is also technically a gourd.
is pumpkin a fruit or vegetable,
Pumpkins are … fruits. That might seem surprising at first since pumpkins don’t taste sweet on their own, but their classification has to do with the part of the plant they come from. Pumpkins are the product of the flowering plant and contain seeds inside, just like all other fruits, including strawberries, melons, apples and more. You might also be surprised to learn that tomatoes, cucumbers, avocados and peppers are also classified as fruits for the same reason.
Vegetables, on the other hand, don’t contain seeds. They are the flowers, bulbs, leaves and stems of a plant, like lettuce, spinach onions, broccoli and Brussels sprouts, for example.
But fruit or vegetable, one thing is certain: Pumpkins taste great in all kinds of recipes, from decadent desserts to hearty soups and stews to your favorite seasonal drink from your local coffee shop.
There are over 100 varieties of pumpkin, ranging from the carnival-friendly Big Max to the Kabocha, a small green gourd treasured for its mild, firm flesh. Pie varieties are often smaller than pumpkins used for carving and have dense, sweet interiors. You can find pumpkins in an enticing array of shades and sizes, with some weighing in at over 500 pounds.
According to Science
Scientifically speaking, a fruit is the part of a plant that develops from the flower and contains the seeds of the plant.According to botanical definitions, the fruit of a plant is what allows the plant to reproduce. It develops from the ovary of the flower and contains the seeds the plant needs to reproduce into future generation.
By this botanical definition, pumpkin is a fruit.
It develops from the flower of the pumpkin plant and contains the seeds.
This is obvious when you carve your Halloween Jack-o-Lantern and have to scoop out all those slimy seeds before you can put in your candle!
This this same definition lots of other “vegetables” are also fruits: all squash, beans, peppers, cucumbers, okra, and of course, tomatoes.
So if a pumpkin is a fruit. Then what is a vegetable?All other parts of the plant- roots, leaves, stalks, flowers, etc- would be vegetables.
Examples include lettuce (leaves), carrots (roots), celery (stalk), or flowers (artichoke).
These are all botanically vegetables.So in the garden- the pumpkin is the fruit of the plant. But bring it inside to the kitchen, and you may get a different answer from culinary experts.
According to Cooks
In the kitchen and in the culinary world pumpkin would be described as a vegetable. Their less scientific criteria classifies fruits and vegetables based on sweetness and sugar content.
Fruits have a more delicate flavor. They have a softer texture and are sweet or tart in taste.
Pumpkins are considered a vegetable because it is lower in sugar and usually used in more savory dishes.
Of course- pumpkin, especially in the fall gets used for all sorts of sweet dishes like my favorite Pumpkin Pie and we all know how obsessed the world is with everything Pumpkin Spice!
And even in the case of tomatoes, the law sided with the cook’s definition for the difference between fruits and vegetables when deciding if tomatoes are a fruit or vegetable.
Does this mean that all squashes are fruits?
Pumpkin, which is a type of squash, isn’t the only plant in the family that comes with many seeds. Though they all vary in taste and texture, it turns out that all squash, from butternut and acorn to crookneck and zucchini, have seeds in them. And so this makes them—you guessed it—fruits.
What are the Best Pumpkins for Cooking?
Want to make a prize-winning pumpkin pie? Reach for varieties like New England, Jarrahdale, and Cinderella. These types have a deep flavor that holds up well in desserts and soups. Neck and Long Island Cheese pumpkins have smooth, stringless textures that are also great for baking.
Steer clear of large carving varieties that lack flavor and have tough, stringy consistencies —these are best left on the porch for decorative purposes. To guarantee the best tasting pumpkin, look for small, unblemished fruit with well-attached stems. A mature pumpkin will have a hardened rind with no obvious bruising.
Pumpkin Roll Recipes
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line a 10-by-15-inch jelly roll pan with parchment paper. Spray the parchment with nonstick cooking spray.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the pumpkin, eggs, sugar and oil. Add the flour, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking powder, baking soda, and salt and stir until just combined. Do not overmix.
- Using a spatula, spread the batter evenly over the entire parchment-lined pan. Bake for 13 to 15 minutes, or until the cake springs to the touch. Allow to cool for about 5 minutes.
- Generously sprinkle the powdered sugar over the cake. Starting at the narrow end, gently roll up the cake and parchment together into a log shape. Set aside until completely cool.
- Meanwhile, prepare the filling. In a medium bowl, combine all filling ingredients and beat until very creamy.
- Once the cake has cooled completely, gently unroll it and carefully spread the filling evenly over the top. Gently roll the cake up again, this time without the parchment. Refrigerate until filling is well set. Slice off the uneven or messy ends and garnish with more powdered sugar, mint or candied ginger, if desired.
What are the benefits of pumpkin?
Though the festive gourd is considered a fruit, it doesn’t change the fact that it includes some impressive health benefits. In fact, pumpkins are loaded with so many vitamins and nutrients that they’re considered a superfood.
The tasty gourds are loaded with vitamin A (one cup provides more than 200 percent of the recommended daily amount), which makes them great for promoting eye health and supporting a healthy immune system. They’re also very low in calories and considered to be a good source of Vitamin C, potassium, fiber and antioxidants.
As for the seeds, they’re filled with antioxidants and valuable nutrients, such as magnesium, iron, zinc, vitamin B2 and vitamin K. They’re also very high in fiber, which can promote good digestive health.
According to a 2019 study, pumpkin seeds are not only nutritious, but they also have therapeutic properties, proving to be useful in the “treatment and management of diabetes, inflammation, hyperlipidaemia, hypertension, cancer management,” and more.
Sounds like we’ll be adding a lot more pumpkin (and pumpkin seeds) to our diet going forward!
Major species and uses
In Europe and South America, pumpkin is mainly served as a vegetable and used interchangeably with other winter squashes. In the United States and Canada, pumpkin pie is a traditional Thanksgiving and Christmas dessert. Canned pumpkin is commonly made from C.
moschata and may be mixed with other winter squashes, such as butternut squash (also C. moschata).
Pumpkins are popular autumn decorations, especially C. pepo, the common field pumpkin. In some places, pumpkins are used as Halloween decorations known as jack-o’-lanterns, in which the interior of the pumpkin is cleaned out and a light is inserted to shine through a face carved in the wall of the fruit.
Regulating blood pressure
Eating pumpkin is good for the heart. The fiber, potassium, and vitamin C content in pumpkin all support heart health.
Results of a 2017 studyTrusted Source of 2,722 participants suggested that consuming enough potassium may be almost as important as decreasing sodium in the treatment of high blood pressure.
High blood pressure is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease (CVD). Typically, reducing sodium intake involves eating meals that contain little or no salt.
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Office of Dietary Supplements, consuming more potassium may also reduce the riskTrusted Source of other types of CVD.
More research is necessary to confirm the effects of pumpkin consumption on stroke and CVD risk.
Preventing and controlling diabetes
Including pumpkin in the diet may help people control diabetes and their blood sugar levels.
A 2019 studyTrusted Source shows that a combination of two plant extracts, one of which was pumpkin polysaccharides, brought down blood sugar levels in mice.
Although the study did not involve humans,
the research shows some potential for these plant compounds to limit type 2 diabetes.
Due to their impact on blood sugar, scientists may be able to rework them into an antidiabetic medication, though further studies are necessaryTrusted Source.