Glancing at my fall harvest yearly, I wonder whether Pumpkins are truly berries or vegetables like people often believe. Thank god I stepped in to take Botany as my major!
So, let’s look closer and get a clearer answer to the question of how and why are Pumpkins called berries?
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Are Pumpkins Berries? [Botanical Definition]
Pumpkins (Cucurbita pepo), from the plant family Cucurbitaceae, are creepers or climbers.
They are usually harvested during late summer to mid-fall (between the end of August and October).
Some members of this family include Gourd and Squash varieties like Cucumbers, and Melons, such as Cantaloupes and Honeydews.
Botanically, the Pumpkin plant produces “fruits,” as all plants do, but in the deeper scientific sense, Pumpkin fruits are a type of “Pepo,” called Berries.
Some other examples of berries include Tomatoes, Bananas, Grapes, Capsicums, etc.
But, in culinary terms, Pumpkins go by many names, such as melons, squashes, gourds, and vegetables, as they fit the culinary meaning.
Where Does the Name Pumpkin Come From?
The name “Pumpkin” comes from the Greek word “Peopon,” meaning “large melon.”
However, to suit the lingoes, Peopon was modified to the “Pompon” in French and then to “Pumpion” in Britain.
But, the American colonists stood with the most popular term known today, “Pumpkin.” Scientists postulate that Pumpkins originated first in North America 9000 years ago.
To further add, the oldest use of Pumpkin seeds dates back to Mexico around 7000-5550 B.C.
Hence, in North American cuisine, Pumpkins (with other forms of Squashes) has been a historically staple food among Native Americans since ancient times.
Do You Know?
Charles Perrault, a French author, prominently used “Pumpkin” in his classic fairytale Cinderella to describe the melon carriage that was used to take the main character to the ball/ dance party of Prince Charming.
What is a Pumpkin Classified Culinarily?
The “berry” or “fruit” definition of Pumpkin only serves Botanically and in deeper Taxonomical meanings.
Culinarily, true Pumpkins and their cultivars are peak vegetables for preparing fall recipes like pies, soups, ravioli, curry, pudding, latte, etc.
Even roasted Pumpkin seeds are popular delights in smoothies, salads, cereals, muesli, pasta, chicken dishes, and sweets.
Ripe Pumpkins may look appealing, but the pulp and raw seeds may be a carrier of Salmonella and Escherichia species, which are gut-degrading bacteria.
Health Benefits of Pumpkins
Pumpkins are not only versatile vegetables for dishes but are also beneficial healthwise.
- An average ripe Pumpkin contains about 90% water which can keep you hydrated.
- It packs around 3% of fiber, which encourages weight loss.
- Additionally, an average-sized Pumpkin has 245% of vitamin A and 19% of vitamin C of the daily recommended dose, which is good for eyesight and skin health, respectively.
- Further, Pumpkin seeds are also rich in minerals like iron, zinc, magnesium, vitamin K and B12.
Besides, there are different varieties of Pumpkins, with equal health benefits, which you can harvest during the fall or around Halloween.
Cherokee Bush, Fairytale Pumpkins, Dill’s Atlantic Giant, and Jack-Be-Little are some examples.
From Editorial Team
When to harvest Pumpkins?
Pumpkin berries mature within 90-120 days after planting seeds (depending on the variety) during fall.
You can harvest them when the fruit’s outer rind becomes tough, bright orange, and attains a woody texture.