Vegetables

  




Pumpkin 

 
Latin: Cucurbita pepo
 
Origin:
A plant of certain varieties of Cucurbita moschata (Duch.) Poiret, or Cucurbita pepo L., of the family Cucurbitaceae. The names pumpkin, cushaw and squash, especially in the United States, are applied inconsistently to certain varieties of all these species. The quick-growing, small-fruited bush, or nontrailing, varieties of Cucurbita pepo are called squash in America, while the long-season, long-trailing, large-fruited varieties are called pumpkin.

The annual climber grows to about 0.6 m by 5 m at a fast rate. It is in flower from July to September, and the seeds ripen from August to October. The flowers are monoecious (individual flowers are either male or female, but both sexes can be found on the same plant) and are pollinated by insects. The plant can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It requires moist soil.

The fruits are large, generally 4-8 kg or more, are yellowish to orange in color, and vary from oblate through globular to oblong. The skin is smooth and usually lightly furrowed or ribbed; the fruit stem is hard and woody, ridged or angled, and in Cucurbita pepo not flared at its point of attachment to the fruit. Pumpkins produce very long vines and are planted individually or in twos or threes on little hills about 2.5 to 3 m apart.

The very largest varieties of pumpkin are called winter squash, Cucurbita maxima, and may weigh 34 kg or more. These hardy vegetables are neither grown nor harvested in the winter, as the name seems to imply--they grow on frost-tender vines and are actually picked in the fall and stored until spring. Because of their hard, thick skins, they have the ability to keep through the cold winter months, a quality that made this member of the gourd family a staple vegetable before the days of modern shipping and freezing techniques. Under their hard skins, winter squash have large seeds and firm, deep-yellow or orange flesh.

Most other pumpkins mature in early autumn. Pumpkins are commonly grown in North America, Europe and Asia for human food and also for livestock feed. The skin is removed, and when cooked the pulp is edible for humans.

In Europe pumpkin is mainly served as a vegetable; in the United States and Canada pumpkin pie is a traditional Thanksgiving and Christmas dessert. The fruit is also used in puddings and soups. It may be used interchangeably with squash in various prepared dishes.

Pumpkins are used in the United States as Halloween decorations, one such being the jack-o'-lantern, in which the interior of the pumpkin is cleaned out and a light inserted to shine through a face carved through the wall of the fruit.

Native Americans used pumpkin flesh and seeds for food. Their use of the seeds for the treatment of intestinal infections eventually led the United States Pharmacopoeia to list pumpkin seeds as an official medicine for parasite elimination from 1863 to 1936. Native Americans also commonly used pumpkin seeds to treat a variety of kidney problems. The flowers were used topically to soothe minor injuries. Eclectic physicians (doctors who recommended herbal medicine) at the end of the 19th century used pumpkin seeds to treat urinary tract problems and gastritis, and to remove tapeworms and roundworms from the intestines.

In China, pumpkin is mainly produced in the provinces Zhejiang, Jiangsu, Hebei, Shandong, Shanxi, Sichuan, etc. It is often harvested when still very young when it is called courgettes.

The most common varieties of pumpkin include acorn, buttercup, butternut, hubbard, spaghetti, and turban. Other varieties include calabaza, cushaw, delicata, winter squash, golden nugget, kabocha, and vegetable marrow.

Also called Field Pumpkin, Pimpkin, Acorn Squash, Jack O'Lantern, etc.

See also Food, Nuts and Seeds, Pumpkin Seed.
 
Properties:
Sweet in flavor, warm in nature, it is related to the channels of the spleen and stomach.
 
Functions:
Invigorates the spleen and stomach and replenishes qi, removes toxic materials and destroys intestinal parasites, dissolves phlegm and pus, sheds ascarids, relieves inflamation and pains.
 
Applications:
1. For bronchial asthma:

Steam 500 g pumpkin and then mix with some honey or sugar. Most cases can have their symptoms controlled.

2. For bloody and purulent (pus-like) phlegm:

Cook 500 g pumpkin and 250 g beef in water until beef is well done. Apply once daily for several days.

3. For night blindness:

Use several pumpkin flowers and cook with 200 g pig's liver. Add salt and flavoring and serve as a side dish.

4. For habitual miscarriage:

Use several base parts of the pumpkin fruit. Bake it as charcoal and pulverize. Beginning from the second month of pregnancy, use one base part and swallow it with warm boiled water.

5. For burns:

Brush pumpkin and squeeze out the juice for local application.
 
Dosage and Administration:
To be eaten steamed, cooked, or to be decocted for oral administration, or to be mashed for external use.

Used as a vegetable, pumpkin has a very mild flavor and is very watery. The fruit has very little flavor of its own and so is often used as a base for making savory dishes, the seeds being scooped out of the fruit and a filling being put in its place--this can then be baked.

The pumpkin seed is eaten raw or cooked. The seed can also be ground into a powder and mixed with cereals for making bread, etc. Rich in oil with a pleasant nutty flavor but very fiddly to use because the seed is small and covered with a fibrous coat. The seeds can also be sprouted and used in salads, etc.

An edible oil is obtained from the seed.

Leaves and young stems are cooked as a potherb.

Flowers and flower buds are cooked or dried for later use.
 
Cautions on Use:
The sprouting seed produces a toxic substance in its embryo.
 
Reference Materials:
 
Toxic or Side Effects:
The sprouting seed produces a toxic substance in its embryo.
 
Modern Researches:
The flesh of pumpkin contains water, citrulline, arginine, trigonelline, asparagine, gynesine, adenine, carotene, niacin, riboflavin, thiamine, carbohydrate, fibre, ash, calcium, phosphorus, iron, sodium, potassium, vitamins A, B and C, ascorbic acid, fat, glucose, sucrose, pentosan and mannitoi.

Pumpkin has the effects of invigoration, replenishment, alleviation of water retention and inducing diuresis when eaten cooked, but it can expel intestinal ascarides and clear away toxic materials when eaten raw.

The seeds contain fat, protein, vitamins A, B1, B2 and C, and carotene. Other major constituents include mucilaginous carbohydrates, amino acids and minerals.

Pumpkin has been much used as a folk medicine in Central and North America, and China. It is a gentle and safe remedy for a number of complaints, especially as an effective tapeworm remover for children and pregnant women for whom stronger acting and toxic remedies are unsuitable.

The use of the pumpkin seeds by the native Americans for the treatment of intestinal infections eventually led the United States Pharmacopoeia to list pumpkin seeds as an official medicine for parasite elimination from 1863 to 1936. As a treatment for parasites, 200-400 grams are ground and taken with milk and honey, followed by castor oil two hours later.

Curcurbitin is a constituent in pumpkin seeds that has shown anti-parasitic activity in the test tube. Human trials conducted in China have shown pumpkin seeds to be helpful for people with acute schistosomiasis, a severe parasitic disease occurring primarily in Asia and Africa that is transmitted through snails. Preliminary human research conducted in China and Russia has shown pumpkin seeds may also help resolve tapeworm infestations. 'Eating your Way to Health' reports that a group of 10 cases each ate up to 500 g raw pumpkin flesh (250 g for children). The worms in 6 cases were expelled from the intestine. The largest number of worms totalled 100; the least, 2. The seeds are powerful vermicide for ascaris, tapeworm, and schistosoma.

The assistance of a physician is required to help diagnose and treat any suspected intestinal parasite infections.

Native Americans also commonly used pumpkin seeds to treat a variety of kidney problems. Eclectic physicians (doctors who recommended herbal medicine) at the end of the 19th century used pumpkin seeds to treat urinary tract problems and gastritis.

Two trials in Thailand have reportedly found that eating pumpkin seeds as a snack can help prevent the most common type of kidney stone. Pumpkin seeds appear to both reduce levels of substances that promote stone formation in the urine and increase levels of substances that inhibit stone formation. Approximately 5-10 grams per day of pumpkin seeds may be needed for kidney stone prevention. The active constituents of pumpkin seeds responsible for this action have not been identified.

Pumpkin seed oil has been used in combination with saw palmetto in two double-blind trials to effectively reduce symptoms of benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). Only one open label trial evaluated the effectiveness of pumpkin seed oil alone for BPH. Men with BPH have used 160 mg three times per day with meals. Animal studies have shown that pumpkin seed extracts can improve the function of the bladder and urethra. This might partially account for BPH symptom relief.

Due to the purported L-tryptophan content of pumpkin seeds, they have been suggested to help remedy depression. However, research is needed before pumpkin seeds can be considered for this purpose.

Pumpkin seeds may cause an upset stomach, but are otherwise extremely safe. There is no reason to believe pumpkin seeds should be avoided during pregnancy or breast-feeding as they are commonly consumed as food during these times without any indication of harm.

The leaves contain water, protein, fat, carbohydrate, fibre, ash, calcium, phosphorus, iron, vitamins A and C, thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, etc. The leaves are applied externally to burns. The sap of the plant and the pulp of the fruit can also be used.

The flower contains water, protein, fat, carbohydrate, fibre, ash, calcium, phosphorus, iron, vitamin A and C, thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, etc. The flowers were used topically to soothe minor injuries.

Pumpkin also relieves short breath in bronchial asthma.

The fruit pulp is used as a decoction to relieve intestinal inflammation.
 
 
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