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For other uses, see Pumpkin (disambiguation).
Several large pumpkins

A pumpkin is a cultivar of a squash plant, most commonly of Cucurbita pepo, that is round, with smooth, slightly ribbed skin, and deep yellow to orange coloration. The thick shell contains the seeds and pulp. Some exceptionally large cultivars of squash with similar appearance have also been derived from Cucurbita maxima. Specific cultivars of winter squash derived from other species, including C. argyrosperma, and C. moschata, are also sometimes called "pumpkin". In New Zealand and Australian English, the term pumpkin generally refers to the broader category called winter squash elsewhere.

Pumpkins, like other squash, are native to North America. Pumpkins are widely grown for commercial use, and are used both in food and recreation. Pumpkin pie, for instance, is a traditional part of Thanksgiving meals in Canada and the United States, although commercially canned pumpkin puree and pumpkin pie fillings are usually made from different kinds of winter squash than the pumpkins frequently carved as jack-o'-lanterns for decoration around Halloween.


Pumpkins in a garden
A pumpkin flower attached to the vine

Pumpkins, like other squash, are thought to have originated in North America. The oldest evidence, pumpkin-related seeds dating between 7000 and 5500 BC, was found in Mexico.[1][2]

Since some squash share the same botanical classifications as pumpkins, the names are frequently used interchangeably. One often-used botanical classification relies on the characteristics of the stems: pumpkin stems are more rigid, prickly, and angular (with an approximate five-degree angle) than squash stems, which are generally softer, more rounded, and more flared where joined to the fruit.[3][4]

Male (top) and female (bottom) pumpkin flowers

Traditional C. pepo pumpkins generally weigh between 6 and 18 pounds (2.7 and 8.2 kg), though the largest cultivars (of the species C. maxima) regularly reach weights of over 75 pounds (34 kg).[5]

The color of pumpkins is derived from the orange pigments abundant in them. The main nutrients are lutein and both alpha and beta carotene, the latter of which generates vitamin A in the body.[6]


The word pumpkin originates from the word pepon (πέπων), which is Greek for "large melon", something round and large.[7] The French adapted this word to pompon, which the British changed to pumpion and later American colonists changed that to the word that is used today, pumpkin.[1]


The term pumpkin has no agreed upon botanical or scientific meaning,[8] and is used interchangeably with "squash" and "winter squash" in some areas. In many areas, including North America and the United Kingdom, pumpkin traditionally refers to only certain round, orange varieties of winter squash, predominantly derived from Cucurbita pepo, while in Australian English, pumpkin can refer to winter squash of any appearance.[9]


All pumpkins are winter squash: mature fruit of certain species in the genus Cucurbita. Characteristics commonly used to define "pumpkin" include smooth and slightly ribbed skin,[10] and deep yellow to orange[10] color. Circa 2005, white pumpkins had become increasingly popular in the United States.[11] Other colors, including dark green (as with some oilseed pumpkins), also exist.

Distribution and habitation

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.[12] Of the seven continents, only Antarctica is unable to produce pumpkins; the biggest international producers of pumpkins include the United States, Canada, Mexico, India, and China.[1][13] The traditional American pumpkin used for jack-o-lanterns is the Connecticut Field variety.[12][14][15][16]


Cultivation in the United States

A pumpkin patch in Winchester, Oregon

As one of the most popular crops in the United States, 1.5 billion pounds (680,000,000 kilograms or 680,000 tonnes) of pumpkins are produced each year.[17] The top pumpkin-producing states include Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and California.[12]

According to the Illinois Department of Agriculture, 95% of the U.S. crop intended for processing is grown in Illinois.[18] Nestlé, operating under the brand name Libby's, produces 85% of the processed pumpkin in the United States, at their plant in Morton, Illinois. In the fall of 2009, rain in Illinois devastated the Nestlé crop, resulting in a shortage affecting the entire country during the Thanksgiving holiday season.[19]

Pumpkins are a warm-weather crop that is usually planted in early July. The specific conditions necessary for growing pumpkins require that soil temperatures three inches (7.6 cm) deep are at least 60 °F (15.5 °C) and soil that holds water well. Pumpkin crops may suffer if there is a lack of water or because of cold temperatures (in this case, below 65 °F (18.3 °C); frost can be detrimental), and sandy soil with poor water retention or poorly drained soils that become waterlogged after heavy rain. Pumpkins are, however, rather hardy, and even if many leaves and portions of the vine are removed or damaged, the plant can very quickly re-grow secondary vines to replace what was removed.[17]

Pumpkins produce both a male and female flower; honeybees play a significant role in fertilization.[17] Pumpkins have historically been pollinated by the native squash bee Peponapis pruinosa, but this bee has declined, probably at least in part to pesticide sensitivity,[20] and today most commercial plantings are pollinated by honeybees. One hive per acre (4,000 m² per hive) is recommended by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. If there are inadequate bees for pollination, gardeners often have to hand pollinate. Inadequately pollinated pumpkins usually start growing but abort before full development.

Giant pumpkins

"Giant pumpkins" are a large squash (within the group of common squash Cucurbita maxima) that can exceed 1 ton (2,000 pounds) in weight.[21] The variety arose from the large squash of Chile after 1500 A.D through the efforts of botanical societies and enthusiast farmers.

Such germplasm is commercially provocative, and in 1986 the United States extended protection for the giant squash. This protection was limited to small specimens of a very specific parameters, being a weight of 175 pounds, oblong shape, etc.[21] In 2004, the restriction expired except for the requirement of indefinite use of the pseudonym "Dill's Atlantic Giant" for squash fitting the specific parameters or the seeds thereof.

See #Pumpkin festivals and competitions below.



Pumpkin pie is a popular way of preparing pumpkin.

Pumpkins are very versatile in their uses for cooking. Most parts of the pumpkin are edible, including the fleshy shell, the seeds, the leaves, and even the flowers. In the United States and Canada, pumpkin is a popular Halloween and Thanksgiving staple.[22] Pumpkin purée is sometimes prepared and frozen for later use.[23]

Pumpkin, raw
Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)
Energy 109 kJ (26 kcal)
6.5 g
Sugars 2.76 g
Dietary fiber 0.5 g
0.1 g
1 g
Vitamin A equiv.
426 μg
3100 μg
1500 μg
Thiamine (B1)
0.05 mg
Riboflavin (B2)
0.11 mg
Niacin (B3)
0.6 mg
0.298 mg
Vitamin B6
0.061 mg
Folate (B9)
16 μg
Vitamin C
9 mg
Vitamin E
0.44 mg
Vitamin K
1.1 μg
21 mg
0.8 mg
12 mg
0.125 mg
44 mg
340 mg
1 mg
0.32 mg

Percentages are roughly approximated using US recommendations for adults.
Source: USDA Nutrient Database
A can of pureed pumpkin, typically used as the main ingredient in pumpkin pie

When ripe, the pumpkin can be boiled, steamed, or roasted. In its native North America, it is a very important, traditional part of the autumn harvest, eaten mashed[24] and making its way into soups and purees. Often, it is made into pie, various kinds of which are a traditional staple of the Canadian and American Thanksgiving holidays. In Canada, Mexico, the United States, Europe and China, the seeds are often roasted and eaten as a snack.

Pumpkins that are still small and green may be eaten in the same way as squash or zucchini. In the Middle East, pumpkin is used for sweet dishes; a well-known sweet delicacy is called halawa yaqtin. In South Asian countries such as India, pumpkin is cooked with butter, sugar, and spices in a dish called kadu ka halwa. Pumpkin is used to make sambar in Udupi cuisine. In Guangxi province, China, the leaves of the pumpkin plant are consumed as a cooked vegetable or in soups. In Australia and New Zealand, pumpkin is often roasted in conjunction with other vegetables. In Japan, small pumpkins are served in savory dishes, including tempura. In Myanmar, pumpkins are used in both cooking and desserts (candied). The seeds are a popular sunflower seed substitute. In Thailand, small pumpkins are steamed with custard inside and served as a dessert. In Vietnam, pumpkins are commonly cooked in soups with pork or shrimp. In Italy, it can be used with cheeses as a savory stuffing for ravioli. Also, pumpkin can be used to flavor both alcoholic and nonalcoholic beverages.

In the southwestern United States and Mexico, pumpkin and squash flowers are a popular and widely available food item. They may be used to garnish dishes, and they may be dredged in a batter then fried in oil. Pumpkin leaves are a popular vegetable in the Western and central regions of Kenya; they are called seveve, and are an ingredient of mukimo,[25] respectively, whereas the pumpkin itself is usually boiled or steamed. The seeds are popular with children who roast them on a pan before eating them.

Other than the traditionally defined pumpkin, commercially canned "pumpkin" puree and pumpkin pie fillings may contain other winter squashes, such as butternut squash.


Salted pumpkin seeds
Main article: Pepita

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 popular 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 a popular Halloween treat. Per ounce serving, pumpkin seeds are a good source of protein, magnesium, copper and zinc.[26]

Pumpkin seed oil

Pumpkin seed oil

Pumpkin seed oil is a thick, green-red[27][28] oil that is produced from roasted pumpkin seeds. When used for cooking or as a salad dressing, pumpkin seed oil is generally mixed with other oils because of its robust flavor.[29] Used in cooking in central and eastern Europe, it is considered a delicacy in traditional local cuisines such as for pumpkin soup, potato salad or even vanilla ice cream. Pumpkin seed oil contains fatty acids, such as oleic acid and alpha-linolenic acid.[30]

Other uses

Canned pumpkin is often recommended by veterinarians as a dietary supplement for dogs and cats that are experiencing certain digestive ailments such as constipation, diarrhea, or hairballs. The high fiber content helps to aid proper digestion.[31]

Raw pumpkin can be fed to poultry, as a supplement to regular feed, during the winter to help maintain egg production, which usually drops off during the cold months.[32]

Pumpkin phytochemicals and nutrients remain under preliminary research for potential biological effects.[33]

Activities involving pumpkins


A pumpkin carved into a jack-o'-lantern for Halloween
Pumpkins carved into jack-o'-lanterns are often bought at pumpkin patches like this one.

Pumpkins are commonly carved into decorative lanterns called jack-o'-lanterns for the Halloween season in North America. Throughout Britain and Ireland, there is a long tradition of carving lanterns from vegetables, particularly the turnip, mangelwurzel, or swede.[34][35] The practice of carving pumpkins for Halloween originated from an Irish myth about a man named "Stingy Jack".[12] The turnip has traditionally been used in Ireland and Scotland at Halloween,[36] but immigrants to North America used the native pumpkin, which are both readily available and much larger – making them easier to carve than turnips.[36] Not until 1837, does jack-o'-lantern appear as a term for a carved vegetable lantern,[37] and the carved pumpkin lantern association with Halloween is recorded in 1866.[38]

In the United States, the carved pumpkin was first associated with the harvest season in general, long before it became an emblem of Halloween.[39] In 1900, an article on Thanksgiving entertaining recommended a lit jack-o'-lantern as part of the festivities that encourage kids and families to join together to make their own jack-o'-lanterns.[39]


Pumpkin chunking is a competitive activity in which teams build various mechanical devices designed to throw a pumpkin as far as possible. Catapults, trebuchets, ballistas and air cannons are the most common mechanisms. Some pumpkin chunkers breed and grow special varieties of pumpkin under specialized conditions to improve the pumpkin's chances of surviving a throw.

Pumpkin festivals and competitions

Competitive Weight Pumpkins

"Giant pumpkins" are orange variants of the giant squash, Cucurbita maxima. Growers of these "pumpkins" often compete to see whose pumpkins are the most massive. Festivals are often dedicated to the pumpkin and these competitions.

The Ohio towns of Barnesville and Circleville each hold a festival every year, the Barnesville Pumpkin Festival and the Circleville Pumpkin Show respectively. The town of Half Moon Bay, California, holds an annual Art and Pumpkin Festival, drawing over 250,000 visitors each year and including the World Champion Pumpkin Weigh-Off.[40] Farmers from all over the US compete to determine who can grow the heaviest pumpkin.[41] The winning pumpkin regularly tops the scale at more than 1,500 pounds (680 kg). Leonardo Urena, from Napa, California, grew the winner of the 2011 Weigh-Off with a 1,704-pound (773 kg) Atlantic Giant, setting a new California State record.[42]

The record for the world's heaviest pumpkin was broken September 30, 2012, at the Topsfield Fair in Massachusetts.[43] Ron Wallace of Greene, Rhode Island, entered a pumpkin weighing 2,009 pounds (911 kg). A few days earlier on September 27, a pumpkin grown by Steve Geddes of Boscawen, New Hampshire, weighed in at 1,843.5 pounds (836.2 kg) at the Deerfield Fair in New Hampshire. That one held the world record for just five days. Prior to that, Guinness World Records had the world's heaviest pumpkin set in 2010 by Chris Stevens, at a weight of 1,810 pounds 8 ounces (821.2 kg), at the Stillwater Harvest Fest in Stillwater, Minnesota.[44] The town of Morton, Illinois, the self-declared pumpkin capital of the world,[45] has held a Pumpkin Festival since 1966. The town, where Nestlé's pumpkin packing plant is located (and where 90% of canned pumpkins eaten in the US are processed), held for several years a record for the number of carved and lit pumpkins in one place, before losing it to Boston, Massachusetts, in 2006. Amother large festival is Pumpkin Fest in New Hampshire.

Switzerland's largest pumpkin festival is held by Jucker Farm in September and October, claimed a new international record by a pumpkin weighting 953.5 kilograms (2,102 lb).[46][47]

Cultural aspects

Folklore and fiction

There is a strong connection in folklore and popular culture between pumpkins and the supernatural. Famous examples include the following:


  • A commonplace motif of people being turned into pumpkins by witches.
  • The jack-o-lantern custom discussed above, which connects to Halloween lore about warding off demons.


Iconography and commercialization

Association of pumpkins with harvest time and pumpkin pie at Canadian and American Thanksgiving reinforce its iconic role. Starbucks turned this association into marketing with its pumpkin spice latte, introduced in 2003.[48] This has led to a notable trend in pumpkin and spice flavored food products in North America.[49] This is despite the fact that North Americans rarely buy whole pumpkins to eat other than when carving jack-o'-lanterns.

See also


  1. ^ a b c "The Pumpkin Patch". 2007. Retrieved 19 February 2008. 
  2. ^ "Pumpkin". The Columbia Encyclopedia. Credo Reference. 2004. Retrieved 19 February 2008. 
  3. ^ cucurbitaceae. (1995). In Van Nostrand's Scientific Encyclopedia (8th ed.). New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold.
  4. ^ pumpkin. (1992). In The Encyclopedia Americana International Edition. Danbury, Connecticut: Grolier Incorporated.
  5. ^ "Pumpkin". Encyclopædia Britannica Online. 2007. Retrieved November 28, 2007. 
  6. ^ Susan D. Van Arnum (1998). "Vitamin A in Kirk-Othmer Encyclopedia of Chemical Technology" (45). New York: John Wiley. pp. 99–107. doi:10.1002/0471238961.2209200101181421.a01. 
  7. ^ Paris, Harry S. (1989). "Historical Records, Origins, and Development of the Edible Cultivar Groups of Cucurbita pepo (Cucurbitaceae)". Economic Botany (New York Botanical Garden Press) 43 (4): 423–443. JSTOR 4255187. 
  8. ^ "Horticulture Questions and Answers". Garden Help FAQ. Missouri Botanical Garden. 
  9. ^ Ferriol, María; Picó, Belén (2007). "3". Handbook of Plant Breeding: Vegetables I. New York: Springer. p. 317. ISBN 978-0-387-72291-7. The common terms “pumpkin”, “squash”, “gourd”, “cushaw”, “ayote”, “zapallo”, “calabaza”, etc. are often applied indiscriminately to different cultivated species of the New World genus Cucurbita L. (Cucurbitaceae): C. pepo L., C.  maxima Duchesne, C. moschata Duchesne, C. argyrosperma C. Huber and C. ficifolia Bouché. 
  10. ^ a b "Pumpkins in Florida". Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. 
  11. ^ "White Pumpkins Hit the Halloween Market". NBC News. Associated Press. October 26, 2005. Retrieved October 9, 2013. 
  12. ^ a b c d Wolford, Ron; Banks, Drusilla (2008). "Pumpkins and More". University of Illinois Extension. Retrieved 19 Feb 2008. 
  13. ^ "Pumpkin Seeds". World's Healthiest Foods. The George Mateljan Foundation. 2008. Retrieved 11 Feb 2008. 
  14. ^ Richardson, R. W. "Squash and Pumpkin" (PDF). United States Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, National Plant Germplasm System. Retrieved November 23, 2014. 
  15. ^ Stephens, James M. "Pumpkin — Cucurbita spp.". University of Florida. Retrieved November 23, 2014. 
  16. ^ Baggett, J. R. "Attempts to Cross Cucurbita moschata (Duch.) Poir. 'Butternut' and C. pepo L. 'Delicata'". North Carolina State University. Retrieved November 23, 2014. 
  17. ^ a b c Orzolek, Michael D.; Greaser, George L.; Harper, Jayson K. (2000). "Pumpkin Production". Agricultural Alternatives. Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences. Retrieved 19 Feb 2008. 
  18. ^ Illinois Department of Agriculture (22 Oct 2004). "Illinois Leads Nation in Pumpkin Production". 
  19. ^ Hirsch, Jerry (18 November 2009). "Pumpkin pie could become scarce after Thanksgiving". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2 June 2015. 
  20. ^ Williams, Roger (2009). "Effects of imidacloprid-based Insecticides on the Native Cucurbit Pollinator, Peponapis pruinosa". US Interagency IPM Projects. Retrieved September 15, 2013. 
  21. ^ a b Body text/content for this Wikipedia page was copied with permission from Karl, J. R. 2014. Cleaning the Giant Pumpkin. ISBN 978-1512074567; ... 2010. Giant Squash. ISBN 978-1511991018
  22. ^ Hogan, C. Michael (2011). "Thanksgiving". Encyclopedia of Earth. National Council for Science and the Environment. 
  23. ^ Roberts, Tammy. "Many uses for pumpkin". MissouriFamilies. University of Missouri Extension. 
  24. ^ Stavely, Keith W.F. and Fitzgerald, Kathleen. America's Founding Food: The Story of New England Cooking. Chapel Hill, N.C.: University of North Carolina Press, 2004. ISBN 0-8078-2894-7
  25. ^ "Cock and Bull Stories". Retrieved 2013-08-12. 
  26. ^ "Nutrition facts for pumpkin seeds, whole, roasted, without salt". SELF Nutritiondata. Condé Nast Publications. Retrieved 1 September 2012. 
  27. ^ Kreft, S.; Kreft, M. (2007). "Physicochemical and physiological basis of dichromatic colour" (PDF). Naturwissenschaften 94 (11): 935–939. doi:10.1007/s00114-007-0272-9. PMID 17534588. 
  28. ^ Kaernbach, C.; Dörre, C. (2006). Gula, B.; Vitouch, O., eds. "On the color of transparent substances, in Current Psychological Research in Austria" (PDF). Proceedings of the 7th scientific conference of the Austrian Psychological Society (ÖGP) (Klagenfurt). 
  29. ^ Tyler Herbst, Sharon (2001). "Pumpkin-Seed Oil". The New Food Lover's Companion (3rd ed.). Barron. p. 550. Retrieved 14 Feb 2008. 
  30. ^ Bavec F, Grobelnik Mlakar S, Rozman Č, Bavec M (2007). "Oil Pumpkins: Niche for Organic Producers" (PDF). Issues in new crops and new uses. Purdue University Agriculture, Horticulture and Landscape Architecture. Retrieved 2 September 2012. 
  31. ^ "Tip 75 – Pumpkin for cats – pumpkin for dogs – Pumpkin for diarrhea or constipation". - Canada's Pet Information Centre. Retrieved 1 November 2011. 
  32. ^ Jacob, J. P.; Wilson, H. R.; Miles, R. D.; Butcher, G. D.; Mather, F. B. "Factors Affecting Egg Production in Backyard Chicken Flocks". University of Florida IFAS Extension. Retrieved September 15, 2013. 
  33. ^ Yadav, M.; Jain, S; Tomar, R.; Prasad, G.B.; Yadav, H. (2010). "Medicinal and biological potential of pumpkin: an updated review". Nutr Res Rev 23 (2): 184–90. doi:10.1017/S0954422410000107. PMID 21110905. Retrieved 2 September 2012. 
  34. ^ "Pumpkins Passions". BBC. 31 October 2005. Retrieved 19 October 2006. They continue to be popular choices today as carved lanterns in Scotland and Northern Ireland, although the British purchased a million pumpkins for Halloween in 2004 
  35. ^ Fowler, Julian (28 October 2005). "Turnip battles with pumpkin for Hallowe'en". BBC. Retrieved 23 September 2007. 
  36. ^ a b The Oxford companion to American food and drink. Oxford University Press. 2007. p. 269. Retrieved February 17, 2011. 
  37. ^ Hawthorne, Nathaniel (1837). "The Great Carbuncle". Twice-Told Tales. Hide it [the great carbuncle] under thy cloak, say'st thou? Why, it will gleam through the holes, and make thee look like a jack-o'-lantern! 
  38. ^ Daily News (Kingston, Ontario), November 1, 1866:
    The old time custom of keeping up Hallowe'en was not forgotten last night by the youngsters of the city. They had their maskings and their merry-makings, and perambulated the streets after dark in a way [that] was no doubt amusing to themselves. There was a great sacrifice of pumpkins from which to make transparent heads and face, lighted up by the unfailing two inches of tallow candle.
  39. ^ a b The Day We Celebrate: Thanksgiving Treated Gastronomically and Socially, The New York Times, Nov. 24, 1895, p. 27. "Odd Ornaments for Table," The New York Times, Oct. 21, 1900, p. 12.
  40. ^ "Half Moon Bay Art & Pumpkin Festival: A Brief History". Miramar Events. Retrieved 2013-08-12. 
  41. ^ "Quick Facts". Miramar Events. Retrieved 2013-08-12. 
  42. ^ "2011 Results - The Safeway World Championship Pumpkin Weigh-Off". Retrieved 2011-11-25. 
  43. ^ "2012 World Record- 2009 Pound Giant Pumpkin Pictures from". Pumpkin Nook. Retrieved 2013-08-12. 
  44. ^ Clarke, Suzanne. "World's Heaviest Pumpkin Record Falls Twice". Yahoo News. Retrieved 1 October 2012. 
  45. ^ "Morton Pumpkin Festival". 2008-01-15. Archived from the original on 2008-01-15. Retrieved 2011-01-04. 
  46. ^ "Im Video: Weltrekord im Kürbiswiegen" (in German). Zürcher Oberländer. 2014-10-05. Retrieved 2014-10-06. 
  47. ^ "Der Mann mit dem Kürbisblick" (in German). Tages-Anzeiger. 2014-10-07. Retrieved 2014-10-07. 
  48. ^ Christopher Mims. "The untold history of Starbucks’ Pumpkin Spice Latte". Quartz. 
  49. ^ "Considering Pumpkin Spice and Seasonal Synesthesia". The American Conservative. 

Further reading

  • Ott, Cindy (2012). Pumpkin: The Curious History of an American Icon. Seattle: University of Washington Press. ISBN 0-295-99195-X. 

External links