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Herb Information
Name: Pumpkin

See Also: Pumpkin Seeds

Biological Name: Cucurbita popo L. 

GOURD FAMILY Cucurbitaceae

Other Names:  

Field Pumpkin, Squash, 

Mandarin: Nan Gua Zi; 

Japanese: Nankashi; 

Korean: Namgwarha

Indian: Matthanga

Parts Used:

All parts of the pumpkin and squash are edible including the flowers of the plant


Pumpkins were an important food throughout the Americas long before Colonial times. They have been cultivated in Central America for at least 9,000 years, and remains of the fruit have been found in the United States in ancient Southwestern cliff dwellings. Pumpkin is used all over the world.

Botanically, a pumpkin is a squash.

The name "pumpkin" goes back to the Greek word "pepon," meaning ripe or mellow or "sun ripened." 

Pumpkin can be served as a boiled or baked vegetable and as a filling for pies or in custards.

Habitat. Waste places, open fields. 

Range: Native to tropical America. Pumpkin has been cultivated almost everywhere in the world, including North America. 

Identification: An annual vine with tendrils and a creeping prickly stem reaching 30 feet in length. Large, rough, dull green leaves, 1/2-1 foot wide, aretriangular with three to five lobes. Bright yellow funnel-shaped flowers (June-August) are followed by orange fruit that contains numerous flat white seeds. 

How To Select Pumpkins

Buy pumpkins that are heavy for their size, hard on the surface, clean, and free of cuts, cracks, and soft spots. 

For cooking purposes, the small sugar pumpkins averaging 7 lbs. or so are best. A local farm stand may be your best source for small pumpkins.

Therapeutic Value 

Like all orange-pigmented vegetables, pumpkins are rich in beta carotene (the plant form of vitamin A). A half cup of canned or baked pumpkin provides over 450 percent of the adult Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) of Vitamin A. Studies have shown that this antioxidant may help prevent some forms of cancer. Pumpkins are also shown to help fight colds, immune diseases, and night blindness. 

Pumpkins are high in vitamin C for all-around tissue building and healing as well as 275mg of potassium for a healthy heart.. A half-cup serving supplies over 15 percent of the RDA of Vitamin C. Both squash and pumpkin contain a good amount of fiber that is a defense against the development of tumors. 

A half cup of pumpkin has only 40 calories. Pumpkins are very low in fat and are high in fiber. When you boil pumpkins, they absorb water and lose some nutrients. We suggest you bake pumpkins for optimum retention of nutrients.

In a report published by Graham A. Colditz et al. in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (January 1985), numerous previous studies were cited that "have shown that cancer risk is inversely related to the consumption of green and yellow vegetables. " Particularly mentioned were lung, gastrointestinal, bladder, and colon cancers. The report was based on a study of more than 1,200 Massachusetts residents 66 years of age or older and demonstrated that those with the highest intake of carotene-containing vegetables had the lowest incidence of cancer.

The best part of pumpkin from nutritional point of view is the part most of throw out when we carve pumpkins for the Jack O' Lantern - viz., the seeds. The nutritional and healing value of the seeds are covered elsewhere.

Nutrient Content of 1 Cup Canned Solid-Pack Pumpkin (About 9 oz., 245 grams)

Calories 49
Protein 2g
Saturated Fat 0g
Cholesterol 0 mg
Carbohydrate 12g
Calcium 37 mg
Phosphorus 74mg
Iron 1.4 mg
Sodium 2 mg
Potassium 564 mg
Dietary fiber 4 g
Vitamin A 265 RE
Thiamin 0.08 mg
Riboflavin 0.19 mg
Niacin 1.0 mg
Vitamin C 12 mg

In the Kitchen: Cooking Pumpkin

Squash and pumpkins will keep quite well for a month or more in a cool, dry, airy place, such as an unheated attic. 

Baking is about the easiest cooking method for squash and pumpkins. Don't cook these vegetables cut sides down, because this will steam them and you'll lose the nutty flavor. (For the same reason, don't cook them in the micro- wave oven.) Instead, bake them cut sides up. 

After baking pumpkins, turn them upside down to drain, since they can be quite watery . When you want to use fresh pumpkin in pies, put the mashed vegetable in a saucepan over low heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until the desired dense consistency is reached. 

Safety: No safety issues have been reported.

See Safety warning for pumpkin seeds

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