The pumpkin is one of the most versatile foods in the world, as it can be used completely and in an infinity of recipes, whether sweet or savory. There are countless dishes with pumpkin that we can prepare! Additionally, it has very interesting nutritional properties. These two features make Pumpkin a staple food in many cuisines.
Its use is not only in culinary, but also as decoration (as in Halloween) and in the preparation of utensils (such as containers), being one of the most used foods in history and with more diverse purposes!
Despite being in the group of vegetables and many believing that it is a vegetable, the pumpkin (scientific name: Cucurbita, a botanical genus of the cucurbitaceae family Cucurbitaceae) is actually a creeping fruit of the same family of chayote, watermelon, melon and cucumber!
The origin of the pumpkin
Pumpkin is believed to have originated in the Americas, over 10,000 years ago. They were used to feed the Olmec civilization, which was found in the Tropical Regions of south-central Mexico. This civilization was absorbed by the Aztec, Mayan and Inca Civilizations (Mesoamerican Civilizations).
It was also cultivated in Brazil by the indigenous people, with different varieties, being a crucial element in their diet. They considered it the third most important agricultural product (after Cassava and Maize).
In the 16th century, Portuguese and Spanish navigators arrived in the Americas and discovered the pumpkin, which they would then take to Europe. The Portuguese were responsible for spreading throughout the world the varieties of pumpkins that were used in Brazil, while the Spaniards spread the pumpkin varieties cultivated by Mesoamerican civilizations. The success of the pumpkin was such that it is believed that even in the 16th century all the varieties were completely spread throughout the to Europe!
However, its origin is not entirely clear, as there are also scholars who believe that the pumpkin is cited by the Egyptians, and that the Romans had used pumpkin with honey to help digest the high amount of meat they consumed.
Pumpkin Production and Harvesting Method
Pumpkins are grown all over the world, with the exception of Antarctica. There are several types of pumpkin, and their needs in terms of cultivation vary, however, in general, it develops well in all types of soil, with the exception of waterlogged. Regarding temperatures, it prefers higher temperatures, between 20º and 28º, being quite sensitive to cold and snow.
They need sunlight and are best planted in a sunny location. If this is not possible, they can be planted in a place with partial shade, as long as it is exposed to the sun for part of the day. For this reason, the planting occurs between March and May, so that growth takes place in the hottest months.
It is expected that they will be ready for consumption between 90 and 150 days after planting, depending on the type of pumpkin cultivated.
The harvest must take place, for the most common varieties in Portugal, between September and November, when there are visible. signs of maturation, such as duller and less shiny skin, hard skin or yellowish or brownish stalk.
How to choose pumpkin?
When choosing a pumpkin, you should start by differentiating whether you are looking for a summer or winter pumpkin. If you are looking for the latest, you should always look for a fruit with a hard, firm and heavy skin, as this indicates that the pulp is moist and soft. If, on the other hand, you are looking for a summer pumpkin, you should choose one that is medium in size and does not weight much, presenting a shiny shell.
Whenever possible, you should choose to buy whole pumpkins, as they retain their flavor better.
Whole pumpkins can be stored in a cool, dry place, however, if it has already been opened or peeled, it must be kept in the refrigerator. It can also be frozen, to use in soups, for example.
Pumpkin's health benefits
Although the nutritional characteristics of pumpkins vary slightly depending on the variety chosen, the pumpkins have several health benefits in common, such as:
- Helps in eye health, as it is rich in carotenoids with high antioxidant power that protect the body against damage caused by free radicals, maintaining eye health and preventing cataracts. In addition, the carotenoids present in pumpkin also protect the eyes from the ultraviolet rays of the sun, blue light emitted by computers and cell phones, preventing macular degeneration, a disease related to aging that diminishes the ability to see.
- Helps in the prevention of various cancers, such as lung, pancreas, breast and prostate, as it contains a high content of compounds with antioxidant properties, such as beta-carotene and vitamin A, helping to fight excess free radicals in the body;
- Helps strengthen the immune system as it is rich in carotenoids, which help fight viruses, bacteria and fungi, thus preventing the flu, allergies and colds;
- Helps in weight loss, as it has a high amount of fiber, which helps to reduce hunger. In addition pumpkin itself is low in calories and carbohydrates;
- Helps in the prevention of diabetes, also due to the fibers, which promote the slow absorption of carbohydrates and promote the balance of blood glucose level;
- Helps fight constipation, as it has large amounts of insoluble fibers, which increase the volume of stools and stimulate natural bowel movements, facilitating the elimination of stools;
- Helps prevent high blood pressure as it contains potassium, a mineral that helps to relax the arteries, facilitating blood circulation. In addition, potassium helps to stimulate the elimination of sodium.
Discover 30 Types of Pumpkin
There are hundreds of different varieties of pumpkin, which is attributed to cross-pollination! They vary in color, shape, texture, pulp and even (slightly) nutritional value! Discover 30 varieties from around the world that we have selected to present to you!
Atlantic Giant Pumpkin
Variety of giant pumpkins, which produce pumpkins that can exceed 100kg! With yellow pulp, it is recognized for its presence in pumpkin size competitions and loved by hobby enthusiasts, its flavor being considered tasteless when compared to other pumpkin varieties. Still, it presents an interesting nutritional value and its consumption is recommended!
Hungarian Blue Pumpkin
Also known as “Nagydobosy sütotok”, it is very popular in Hungary, the country where it comes from, as its name indicates. It has a bluish skin and its pulp is bright orange. Very sweet and tasty, it is ideal for use in sweets and desserts such as cakes, pies fillings or scones. It can also be used in soups and purees, or even roasted for accompany different dishes.
Baby Bear Pumpkin
Smaller than other pumpkins and with a flattened shape, it has a bright orange and green skin, with orange. It is quite sweet, and therefore ideal to use in the pumpkin pies filling. The seeds are very appreciated when roasted.
Baby Boo Pumpkin
With a white color and a small size, it is widely used in Halloween decorations. Its pulp is whitish, tender and slightly sweet, with hints of nuts. They are widely used for stuffing, due to their size and flavor.
A very small pumpkin with an amazing color pattern, which is why it is becoming quite popular. One of the smallest pumpkins, it is highly appreciated for its decorative possibilities. Its shell can be completely orange or dark green, but the most common is to present a mixture of the two colors, forming patterns that resemble wings of bats (hence the name). Its full growth and maturation takes only 90 days!
Also known as spaghetti pumpkin, it has a soft skin and a neutral, slightly sweet flavor. It is mostly famous for its fibrous texture, reminiscent of spaghetti, perfect for stuffing.
This is one of the pumpkins we use in our pumpkin jams! Also known as bowline pumpkin, it is one of the pumpkin varieties most used in Portugal. With a bright orange peel and pulp, a sweet taste and a tender pulp, it is widely used in cooking, both in sweet and savory dishes. We can cook either your pulp or the bark, and is available year-round.
Its shape reminds us of an acorn, it has a whitish green pulp and a fibrous texture, being ideal for use in baked pumpkin or stuffed pumpkin recipes. The seeds can be roasted.
With a soft, pale orange skin and a stronger orange flesh. It is used both in sweet and savory recipes. It has a slightly sweet, smooth flavor with hints of nuts. One of the most popular ways of consumption is sauteed pumpkin.
It reaches between 4.5 and 7 kg, and has a white rind and bright orange flesh. It is a sweet, very tasty pumpkin that can be used in sweet or savory dishes.
Cherokee Bush Pumpkin
Perfect for planting in smaller gardens, due to their small size and resistance to pests and diseases, are considered by many to be one of the tastiest pumpkins! With an orange peel and yellow-orange flesh, they have various culinary applications, from roasts, soups, purees, pancakes or muffins.
A rustic pumpkin, with a very hard skin. The outside is green and with white spots, a white pulp and very fibrous and black seeds. Very famous in the confection of traditional and conventual Portuguese sweets, such as pies, pastries and cakes.
Also known as Paulista pumpkin, it has an orange or greenish rind and its pulp is fibrous. When cooked, it releases a lot of water, being widely used in sweets with spices and coconut or crystallized fruits. It is also used in savory dishes, accompanying well with meat stews, or in recipes for soups and purees, or even in breads and pies.
Futsu Black Pumpkin
With a surprising black color and a soft flesh, Black Futsu pumpkins can be thinly sliced and added raw to salads, or layered in cheese and fruit dishes. They can also be used to reduce the pureed and fried or, lightly fried with vegetables, in soups and stir-fries, sliced and baked or stuffed with grains, meats or cheeses.
Galeaux D'eysines Pumpkin
It is a rare variety of French pumpkin. During its growth, it covers itself with warts, which resemble peanuts, being also known as peanut pumpkin. Its pulp is bright orange, sweet, firm and very tasty. Traditionally used in France for soups, roasts, pies and sauces, and when cooked for sweets.
A very popular variety in Portugal, this pumpkin of Asian origin stands out for its sweet and delicate. Both the pulp and the rind and even the seeds are edible, with excellent nutritional values, rich in fiber, mineral salts and some essential amino acids. It can be consumed boiled or roasted, the pumpkin pulp in pieces, pureed or as a base for a soup. It is also used in the preparation of sweets and jams.
It has an extremely hard shell, which is why it can be preserved for up to 6 months after being harvested. The skin is not edible, but the orange pulp is very nutritious and has a perfect flavor for savory dishes, being traditionally used boiled, baked, steamed, fried or pureed.
Jaune de Paris Pumpkin
Famous for its bright yellow color, Jaune De Paris pumpkin is vigorous, with a tender skin and a soft, sweet pulp. It is perfect to use in pies fillings, soups and cakes.
Also known as pumpkin cabiotá or Japanese pumpkin, it is originally from Japan and has a dark green skin and thick and an orange-yellow flesh. It is mainly used in savory recipes, such as soups, purees, stir-fries and gnochi.
This variety of pumpkin has the particularity of being produced mainly by its seeds! It has a large interior cavity, from which it is easy to remove the seeds, which are much appreciated.
They have an orange peel with green warts. Knucklehead pumpkins are best suited for using when cooked, such as for baking or baking. They can be cooked and combined with roasted vegetables as a side dish, sliced and mixed in green salads or pureed or even in soups.
This is an unusual variety that produces beautiful red pumpkins with interesting dark spots. This variety is excellent for soups and baking. The skin is also edible, as are the flowers!
Marina Di Chioggia Pumpkin
The flavor is where Marina Di Chioggia's real surprise lies. The pulp of this fruit is healthy and sweet. It originates in Italy, so it's no surprise that it's a favorite with pasta makers. It's a great neutral foundation that you can coax it even sweeter or create a truly surprising mix of sweet and savory. The pumpkin Marina Di Chioggia is one of the best pumpkins for cooking and is especially perfect for pasta recipes. It is the perfect pumpkin for making ravioli, risotto and even gnochi!
Musquée de Provence Pumpkin
Musquée de Provence pumpkin, or Nutmet pumpkin, is a pleasant, sweet variety with an orange rind and bright orange flesh. It makes excellent savory dishes, as well as starring in pies and sweets. By the way, it's another one of the pumpkins that we use it in our pumpkin jams. It is a very tasty fruit, with a subtle and pleasant sweetness and a great ability to adapt to the flavors that accompany it.
Porcelain Doll Pumpkin
The Porcelain Doll, or porcelain doll, is an attractive pumpkin with deep ribs and a striking pink color. Its orange pulp is sweet and great for all kinds of culinary delights.
A variety widely produced in Portugal, it was historically used to feed animals, hence its name. It is also used to make sweets or to smooth soups, being one of the essential ingredients in a Portuguese delicacy, the Chouriço de Barroso-Montalegre PGI – obtained from Bísara pigs and this pumpkin!
Prince Crown Pumpkin
Prince Crown pumpkins are much admired for their dense flesh, smooth texture and sweet taste with a hint of nuts. Baking, braising, boiling and grilling are best suited. Its dry pulp retains its shape well when cooked and it also develops a smooth, creamy consistency when kneaded. Crown Prince Pumpkins are popularly sliced and roasted to create a soft, caramelized texture, and once cooked, the meat can be mixed in risotto, mashed as a side dish or even mixed into a salad.
Rouge Vif D'Etampes Pumpkin
The Rouge Vif D'Etampes pumpkin has been marketed for over 100 years and is often referred to as the “Cinderella” pumpkin. A round, lively orange fruit, lobed in the form of blocks of cheese weighing up to 18 kg, with an excellent sweet taste, great for pies or baking, they are produced on medium-sized vines.
Thai Rai Kaw Tok Pumpkin
A beautiful sea green pumpkin that turns brown when stored, very ribbed and with warts. The orange pulp is richly flavored, sweet and fragrant; great for curries, soups, stir-fries and more.
Turkish Turban Pumpkin
A very popular mushroom-shaped pumpkin. Turkish Turban has a very interesting flavor, but is also widely used as a decorative pumpkin. The Turkish Turban's hood has an orange tint and is shiny, and the underside has a light shade of red-orange and sometimes green stripes.
How to use pumpkin?
Pumpkin is one of the most versatile foods, which is why it can be used in many different recipes.
Depending on the type of pumpkin you have, this one may be better suited for sweet or savory recipes, and it should have that. carefully to decide how to use it.
Some of the most common ways to cook pumpkin are:
- Pumpkin soup;
- Pumpkin puree;
- Pumpkin Cake;
- Pumpkin Pancakes;
- Pumpkin Pie;
- Pumpkin jam, like Pumpkin and Orange Jam with Port Wine or Pumpkin and Orange Jam with Almonds.
Discover the best pumpkin jams
At meia.dúzia®, we are fans of pumpkin jam, one of the most traditional in Portugal. But of course, we create mixtures of surprising flavors to give a special touch to one of the most famous fruit candy in our country!
Doce de e Laranja com Mel, Canela e Vinho do Porto by meia.dúzia®
This unique flavored pumpkin jam surprises with an incomparable richness and intensity of aroma, given by the sweet and warm flavor of the pumpkin, mixed with the fresh and slightly acidic flavor of the orange where the rosemary and eucalyptus honey and port wine are added, a liqueur wine with a unique and sweet flavor, produced in the Douro valley - Portugal.
Ideal to accompany cured cheeses (Serra de Estrela Cheese (PDO), Leyden Cheese or Manchevo Cheese), fresh cheese, cottage cheese, such as Beira Baixa Cottage Cheese (PDO) , desserts, toasts and scones.
Recipes | Chef
- Baguette of cream cheese with Pumpkin and Orange Jam with Rosemary and Eucalyptus Honey, Cinnamon and Port Wine meia.dúzia®
- Scrambled Eggs in Caco Cake with Pumpkin Jam with Port Wine
Pumpkin and Orange Jam with Rosemary and Eucalyptus Honey, Cinnamon and Almond by meia.dúzia®
BUY HERE THE PUMPKIN AND ORANGE JAM WITH HONEY, CINNAMON AND ALMONDS 75G
This pumpkin jam is the most traditional Portuguese jam and one of the most used by the Portuguese. A delicate mixture of pumpkin and orange, rosemary honey and eucalyptus honey, cinnamon and almond, make this jam unique, with a flavor that reminds us of traditional jams from our grandparents' time. If you want to taste something typically Portuguese, you have to try this pumpkin and orange jam.
Excellent accompaniment to cured cheeses, Serra de Estrela Cheese (PDO), Azeitão Cheese (PDO), Beira Baixa Cottage Cheese (PDO) and Leyden Cheese (IGP). This jam is ideal for use with cheeses, as well as toppings for crepes, waffles, crumbles, pancakes, toast or toast, cereals, pies, muffins and desserts.
Recipes | Chef
- French toast with Pumpkin and Orange Jam with Cinnamon and Almond
- Tolosa Mestizo Cheese with Pumpkin and Orange Jam
Also available in family size!
Fun facts about the pumpkin
Pumpkins are an integral part of our diet, but their use is not only culinary! They are also the star of competitions, hobbies and even of festive dates!
It might seem surprising to some, but there are several competitions involving pumpkins! The hobby of cultivating giant pumpkins, for competitions regarding their size and weight, takes place all over the world, even pumpkin varieties that are primarily grown for their impressive size.
- The biggest pumpkin ever was grown by Belgian Mathias Willemijns and weighed 1190.49kg. It was authenticated by Great Pumpkin Commonwealth (entity responsible for cultivating the hobby of growing giant pumpkins and creating regulations for the practice), in Ludwigsburg, Germany, on October 9, 2016 (it is in the Guinness World Records);
- The biggest pumpkin pie ever weighed 1678kg and was made on September 25, 2010, in New Bremen, Ohio (USA). The impressive pies had a diameter of 6m and the crest contained 440 sheets of puff pastry! (it is also in Guinness World Records)
Even more surprising is the race tradition that takes place every year in Kasterlee, Belgium! Here, the participants run a relay race on a city lake, with the peculiarity of doing so inside giant pumpkins! Pumpkins are carved to be used as a boat (becoming hollow, and thus supporting the weight of the participant), and the race participants use them to paddle to victory. Pumpkin pulp removed from these pumpkins is used to make soups, which serve as food for the participants.
The tradition of carving pumpkins on Halloween
It is believed that the tradition of carving faces into vegetables began with the Celts, who in their autumn celebration had the tradition of lighting the way to their homes, for the good spirits to reach them. For this, they carved pumpkins and turnips, and they put a light inside the vegetable.
This tradition was adapted by the Irish, who gave carved and illuminated vegetables the name Jack O'Lanterns. Irish immigrants arrived in the United States quickly realized that the country was rich in pumpkins, adopted this vegetable to keep the tradition. The 31st of October, Halloween or Halloween, symbolizes the date on which the dead would be able to visit their loved ones on earth, and the carved and illuminated pumpkins would serve to light your paths!
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