A pumpkin is a squash. It is a member of the Cucurbita family which includes squash and cucumbers. Pumpkins are grown all around the world for a variety of reasons ranging from agricultural purposes (such as animal feed) to commercial and ornamental sales. Out of the seven continents, only Antarctica is unable to produce pumpkins. The origin of pumpkins is not definitively known, although they are thought to have originated in North America. The oldest evidence, pumpkin-related seeds dating between 7000 and 5500 B.C., were found in Mexico.
Pumpkins are very versatile in their uses for cooking, from the fleshy shell to the seeds, to even the flowers; most parts of the pumpkin are edible. Traditionally, pumpkin is a very popular Halloween and Thanksgiving staple. Although most people use store-bought canned pumpkin, homemade pumpkin purée can serve the same purpose. When ripe, the pumpkin can be boiled, baked, steamed, or roasted. In its native North America, it is a significant, traditional part of the autumn harvest, eaten mashed and making its way into soups and purees. In Mexico and the U.S., the seeds are often roasted and eaten as a snack. Usually, it is made into pie, various kinds of which are a traditional staple of the Canadian and American Thanksgiving holiday. Pumpkin seeds, also known as pepitas, are small, flat, green, edible seeds. Most pumpkin seeds are covered by a white husk, although some pumpkin varieties produce seeds without them. Pumpkin seeds are a favorite snack that can be found hulled or semi-hulled at most grocery stores. However, roasting pumpkin seeds (usually scooped out of jack-o-lanterns) is an ideal Halloween treat. Pumpkin seeds have many health benefits, some of which include an excellent source of protein, zinc, and other vitamins, and are even said to lower cholesterol.
Pumpkins are a warm-weather crop that is usually planted in late June to early July. Pumpkin crops may suffer if there is a lack of water or because of cold temperatures (in this case, below 65 degrees; frost can be detrimental), and sandy soil or soil with poor water filtration. To begin, you must choose an area that gets a lot of sunlight and has room for the vines to grow (vines can get 20-30’ long). This doesn’t mean you have to have a big yard or a farm. If you have a long bed on the backside of your house or a garage, this can be the perfect place to grow a pumpkin. Your site also needs to have good drainage. If water stands during the rainy season in the soil strip alongside your garage, this won’t be a good place to grow pumpkins.
Most pumpkin varieties take between 85 – 125 days to mature. The number of days to maturity will be listed on your seed packet that you purchased. If you would like to have pumpkins on October 1st, count backward to decide when to plant.
Plant your seeds 1 – 2 inches deep. Don’t worry about which end is up. The plant will find its way to the surface. Your seeds should sprout in 7 – 10 days. Once your seedling sprouts, is a good time to add additional compost around the plant. The compost will help to keep weeds down and retain moisture. Again, if you don’t have compost, don’t stress, pumpkin vines are pretty resilient. Keep it simple and keep it fun.
Pumpkins are about 80 – 90% water, so as you can imagine they use a lot in their growth. You should water pumpkins only when they need it. Check the soil with a trowel or a hoe. As long as the moisture is good and your plant looks happy, leave it alone. If the soil is starting to dry out, or the plant looks a little droopy, give it a long deep drink. Deep but infrequent watering results in a healthier plant.