The pumpkin plant, Cucurbita Pepo, is grown primarily for fruit and seeds, both of which are edible. It is also referred to as Field Pumpkin, Connecticut Field, and Vegetable Marrow. The pumpkin comes from an annual plant that is one of the members of the gourd family. Although it is commonly cultivated throughout the globe, the Cucurbita Pepo is native to Central America.
This herbaceous plant grows long meandering vines that creep along the ground, grasping anything within reach with tiny tendrils of green mini-vine to help support its growth. It grows dark green leaves that are typically heart shaped, hairy to the touch, naturally veined, and large in size. The pumpkin plant produces a bevy of bright orange flowers along its vines that are shaped like trumpets. It produces fruits, referred to as pumpkins, that are oval to spherical in shape and orange in color. Although its stems are flexible, they are easily broken if stepped upon with a heavy foot.
While the pumpkin plant flowers in July, it typically does not produce mature fruit until the fall. However, these plants should be harvested prior to the first frost. The vines can extend as long as twenty feet if the growing season is long enough and the conditions are agreeable. Due to the existence of different varieties of this fruit, pumpkins can weigh just a few ounces to well over 1,000 pounds. Pumpkins are still good to harvest even if the vines have shriveled up and died. The shell should be uniform in color and firm enough not to dent inward when a fingernail is dug into it.
The pumpkin plants enjoy warm, sunny weather and lots of rain. However, it is prone to infection by certain types of insects (cucumber beetles and squash bugs) and can whither if not sufficiently watered. Nonetheless, the Cucurbita Pepo is easy to grow and readily thrives given the proper growing environment, although it is best not to plant it too closely to other members of the gourd family.
The pulp and seeds of the pumpkin are quite rich in healthy ingredients and contain linoleic acid, oleic acid, palmitic acid, lecithin, cobalt, calcium, boron, iron, potassium, zinc, and magnesium. Containing an amino acid (myosin) in its seeds, the pumpkin is thought to offer important benefits for muscle growth and strength. Pumpkin performs well as a demulcent (relieves inflammation and soothes), nervine (offers therapeutic benefits to the nerves), antirheumatic (treats arthritis), anthelmintic (expels parasitic worms), diuretic (alleviates water retention), and taenifuge (clears parasites from the intestines).
In China, pumpkins are considered a symbol of health. It has been used for its anti-parasitic properties for centuries to treat intestinal parasites and kidney problems. Pumpkins have also been used to treat benign prostate disorders, such as hyperplasia, and to rejuvenate the prostate gland. When taken internally (ingested) to perform as a laxative or to clear out parasites, pumpkin seed oil is thought to treat conditions leading to kidney and intestinal problems.
Following in the footsteps of Native Americans, the health industry uses pumpkin seed oil externally to treat discoloration caused by freckling, burns, and aging. It is also used to address acne. The activity of eating the pulp and/or seeds of pumpkins is thought to perform as an excellent immune booster. It is also highly recommended for the male reproductive system. The method of pumpkin consumption varies. It includes both the pulp and the seeds. The pulp is often boiled, baked, and mashed and used as a side or in a variety of baked goods. It is even used in pumpkin soup. Containing high amounts of Omega-3 fatty acids, the seeds provide health benefits when eaten regularly.
High in vitamin A, pumpkin pulp helps with the regeneration of cells and promotes good vision. It is also a good source of antioxidants (vitamin C and vitamin E) that fight off the damage caused by free radicals that occur naturally within the body, thereby delaying the natural aging process. Eating pumpkin offers the body a healthy dose of carotenoids and flavinoids, both of which are helpful in reducing inflammation. Some skincare formulas include pumpkin seed oil due to its ability to perform as a natural emollient, softening and hydrating the skin. As a result, the skin becomes suppler and wrinkles become less noticeable.