We think about different things when we hear “pumpkin”. Some people think about Halloween and the tradition of making jack-o-lanterns. Others think about the time of the year where everything is pumpkin-flavored, from coffee latte to cakes and pastries.
Others return to the question that has confused many people – what is a pumpkin and what is a squash? All pumpkins are squash, but not all squash are pumpkins since pumpkins are actually a winter squash cultivar (carrying the binomial name Cucurbita pepo), characterized by qualities like ribbed, smooth skin, and orange color. However, some cultivars of Cucurbita maxima, Cucurbita argyrosperma, and Cucurbita moschata are all called pumpkin in places where the people got used to using this term to refer to this fruit. The term pumpkin has been used interchangeably to refer to fruits that are squash or gourd and this explains the confusion of many people.
Species: C. pepo
- Pumpkin is a healthy food offering lots of benefits, to the point that it was once used as a cure for freckles and snakebites!
- Pumpkins can grow very big, but can you believe that pumpkin is actually 90% water?
- Belgian Mathias Willemijns holds the World Guinness record for heaviest pumpkin, which weighs 1,190.49 kg (2,624.6 lb). The feat was authenticated by the Great Pumpkin Commonwealth (GPC) in Ludwigsburg, Germany, on 9 October 2016.
- The only continent on the planet where pumpkin is not grown is Antarctica.
Pumpkin Buying Guide
Pumpkins are sold in groceries, supermarkets, farmers markets, and farm stands. Expect pumpkin supply to be available from August to November.
When buying a pumpkin, check the surface or skin for any sign of damage during handling and storage, like cracks, holes, discoloration, etc. As a winter squash, it is normal that the squash is hard-skinned.
Besides fresh pumpkins, you can also buy canned pumpkin puree or pumpkin you can use to make pie.
Pumpkin Production & Farming in Texas
The hardiness zone spectrum covering Texas ranges from 6 to 9B, which is generally ideal for pumpkins that grow in zones 3 to 9.
Buy pumpkin seeds from a reputable seed store. Make sure to choose the right seed that is suitable for you as a grower – if you have space, you can choose vining or trailing variety, but if your garden is small, you might want to consider choosing seeds for bush-type or compact pumpkin plants.
Make sure to plant after the threat of frost has passed. The ideal soil should have a pH of 6 to 6.5. Make sure you water it with one inch of water once a week. If the weather is unusually hot, watering twice a week is ideal until the weather returns to normal. Pumpkin plants can succumb to root rot as a result of overwatering. Feed them not just with water but fertilizer as well, since pumpkins are heavy feeders.
Pumpkin is ready to harvest after 120 days.
If you are planning to grow companion plants for pumpkins, consider growing corn, Korean licorice mint, lavender, marigolds, marjoram, nasturtiums, pole beans, and sunflowers. The corn helps the pumpkins by fixing the nitrogen in the soil, the same thing pole beans do. The Korean licorice mint attracts hoverflies which feed on pests that attack pumpkins like aphids, mealybugs, and mites. Lavender attracts pollinators that benefit the pumpkins (which sunflowers also do), while marigolds help repel root-knot nematodes, using the bioactive chemicals from its roots to suppress roundworms. Planting marjoram alongside pumpkin makes the pumpkin taste better. Nasturtium also helps with the bug infestation problem pumpkins are known for.
Weeds are detrimental to the crop. They compete for sunlight, water, and nutrients, and as a result, the plant exhibits reduced yields and the size of the fruit is usually smaller as a result of weed problems. That is not all. Weeds also host pathogens, viruses, and insects. Because of these reasons, it is important to rid the weeds around your pumpkin plants.
When harvesting pumpkins, do not pull, twist, or cut too close to the stem-end. Instead, cut it in a way that a portion of the stem remains attached. This ensures that the fruit has a long shelf life. With stems removed, pumpkins tend to spoil faster.
Beetles, snails and slugs, squash bugs, vine borers, and aphids are some of the common pests that attack pumpkin plants. The use of pesticides is necessary especially if infestation worsens and gets out of control.
- Beetle – The use of man-made pesticide carbaryl is the solution to get rid of beetles. Other options include pyrethroid insecticides like cyfluthrin and Lambda cyhalothrin, pesticide malathion, pyrethrin spray, permethrin insecticide, and spinosad. You can also use Kaolin clay, Beauveria bassiana, and/or botanical insecticides.
- Snails and slugs – Use slug bait or copper tape against slugs and snails.
- Squash bugs – The use of man-made pesticide carbaryl is the solution to rid of squash bugs.
- Vine borers – Use man-made pesticide carbaryl, broad-spectrum, pyrethroid-based insecticides like permethrin, or the pyrethroid insecticide bifenthrin to rid your pumpkins of vine borers.
- Aphids – Kill aphids using neem oil, insecticidal soap, or horticultural oil. You can also use the pesticide malathion, which is the most commonly used organophosphate insecticide in the United States, or rotenone, a selective, non-specific insecticide typically used in home gardens for insect control.
Pumpkins are produced worldwide. China, India, Ukraine, and Russia are major producers of pumpkins. In the US, Illinois, Indiana, Pennsylvania, California, and Ohio are some of the major producers of pumpkin. According to Texas A&M University, Texas is also a major producer of pumpkins, planted in more than 8,000 acres of land in Texas, and 90% of the total production of pumpkins in Texas comes from West Texas.
Pumpkins are usually sold without any type of packaging, primarily because their thick skin and rind already provide a layer of protection, keeping the flesh inside safe from any potential contamination while out on display. In some stores or groceries, you will see whole or chopped pumpkins individually wrapped in plastic wrap.
While it is common to eat the flesh of the pumpkin fruit, those who are accustomed to growing pumpkins know that leaves and seeds are edible too. But be careful when eating pumpkin. There is no proof or documented record of allergy to pumpkin fruit although there are records of allergic reaction to pumpkin seed, so be careful when eating pumpkins.
Pumpkins can keep for several months even without refrigeration, for as long as 90 days, as long as the pumpkin is completely dry when stored in a cool, dry, and dark place, not somewhere hot or humid.
Pumpkins are used in making both savory and sweet dishes. Pumpkin flowers are cooked as garnish. Pumpkin seeds are roasted. All around the world, there are many ways pumpkin is cooked – roasted (which is the common practice in countries like Australia and New Zealand), boiled or steamed (which is popular in Kenya), mashed, added to soups, or made into purée. Middle Eastern cuisine features a sweet dish made of pumpkin called halawa yaqtin. Pumpkin, butter, sugar, and spices are the ingredients of the Indian dish called kadu ka halwa. It is used to make sambar in Udupi cuisine.
Pumpkins provide beta-carotene, vitamin A, Vitamin C, carbohydrate, and protein. It is loaded with antioxidants. Eating pumpkin helps decrease the risk of cancer and improves heart health. It also helps improve eye health and assists in losing weight.
When Are Pumpkins in Season in Texas?
To find out when Pumpkins are in season in Texas, please check the seasonal chart below. Why is this important? We are rarely encouraged to think about the physical lengths our food travels before arriving on the market shelves. And all of this travel comes with a hefty environmental cost that is concealed from the consumer’s eye. One of the most salient benefits to eating seasonally is that you are effectively reducing your carbon footprint and supporting a more geographically sustainable food economy. Check other fruit and veg that’s in season in Texas now.