The East London Garden Society

Pumpkins

Botanical name Cucurbita, the fruit of these large plants belong to the Cucurbitaceae or cucumber family. Also called sugar pumpkin, it is a vibrant orange with widely ribbed sections, growing close to the ground on twining vines with huge, fan‐like leaves. Pumpkins rarely weigh more than 20 to 25 pounds and can be harvested much smaller, but the larger they are, the more food you’ll get. They also yield edible seeds and the orange colour has a slightly pink grey tinge, the body often bulging where it lies on the ground.

The hollow centres of pumpkins come with dozens of off‐white seeds attached to a pulpy matter. After cutting your pumpkin in half length‐wise, the pulp can be disposed of after saving the seeds. These are a great source of vitamins, minerals, proteins, and omega‐3 fatty acids, can be dried and salted for a homemade snack or saved to plant in the spring.

The only difference between raw and cooked pumpkin is a six calorie increase per 100 grams in the raw form. The nutrients come from the vitamins and minerals, including large amounts of fibre and 100% of the daily vitamin A requirement.

Pumpkins are fruits, not vegetables. Grown in America for more than 5,000 years, they were an unknown commodity in Europe before Columbus arrived. When pumpkins are mentioned, the first thought will be pie or maybe jack‐o‐lanterns, but pumpkins are also wonderful and warming when used for a soup, salad, or casserole. Pumpkins are related to cucumbers and cantaloupes and come in large and small varieties. The health benefits are amazing because of the combination of vitamins, minerals and other ingredients that make this plant‐based food so unique.

The bright orange hints at the presence of a particularly beneficial carotene. This converts to vitamin A in the body for a tremendous punch of antioxidants with the capacity to help prevent heart disease, cancer and many of the degenerating signs of aging. Vitamin A is also a must for good vision and helping to prevent lung and mouth cancers.

Pumpkin seeds are not only a tasty, easy to transport snack, but are also a concentrated source of minerals and vitamins, with 30 grams of protein, 110% of the daily value in iron and 559 calories. A special bonus in pumpkin seeds is the amino acid tryptophan, which once in the brain, converts into GABA ‐ a nutrient which relaxes the body, calms the nerves, improves sleep, and transmits signals between neurons.