By Brandie Piper
Ornamental pumpkins are the variety that is synonymous with autumn, Halloween carvings, and Thanksgiving. But do you know the names of the essential parts of this famous squash?
Most people probably refer to it as the pumpkin’s “stem” or “handle,” but the technical term is peduncle. The peduncle connects the pumpkin to the vine, and the quality of the peduncle determines the quality of the rest of the pumpkin. According to Purdue University’s Department of Horticulture & Landscape Architecture, insects and diseases can weaken the peduncle, which can make the rest of the pumpkin suffer.
These support the pumpkin and minimize vine movement, allowing the pumpkin to stay in one place. The tendrils reach out and wrap around whatever is nearby – other plants, grass, or man-made structures. This also helps pumpkins survive harsh weather that could jostle them around.
Ornamental pumpkins are rather hollow, with an inch or two of “meat” inside the rind and stringy pulp sprinkled with seeds. When the pulp is cleaned out the seeds can be separated, roasted and eaten. A common misperception is that the meat of these ornamental carving pumpkins is where pumpkin puree comes from, but it actually comes from squash, or sometimes pie pumpkins.
Pie pumpkins are typically bred specifically for cooking and tend to be sweeter and meatier. They have a thicker flesh, which helps them stay fresh for a long period of time.
Aside from their orange color, vertical lines, or “ribs,” on the skin are another distinguishing characteristic of pumpkins. They can have shallow ribbing, deep ribbing, or sometimes a combination of the two, and represent each row of seeds inside the pumpkin.
Now that you know the names of the parts of a pumpkin, here’s a little history:
- Pumpkins are part of the Cucurbitaceae family, which makes cucumbers, honeydew melons, cantaloupe, watermelons, and zucchinis relatives.
- Illinois is the biggest ornamental pumpkin-producing state.
- The heaviest pumpkin ever grown weighed 2,323 pounds and was grown in Germany in 2014.
- Pumpkin pie is a staple at Thanksgiving, and it originated when colonists scooped out pumpkins and filled them with milk, spices, and honey before baking them on hot ashes.