After the rich garden of summer comes a season that has nothing to envy in terms of market wealth. Autumn welcomes us with apples, pears, chestnuts, persimmons and citrus fruits, but there is a vegetable that undoubtedly reigns supreme and has become an icon of this time. It’s pumpkin season, irremediably linked to the imaginary of Halloween and the bucolic idea of an ideal magazine autumn, although in reality we can find it almost all year round.
Nobody is aware that pumpkins have taken on much more prominence in our daily lives since their growing popularity in recent years. Influenced by those contagious fashions that come to us from the American culture, with Halloween already fully established in our country and also many of its autumn recipes, it has helped us to recover a vegetable that has a lot of tradition also in our culture gastronomic.
His image is associated with the grayer and cooler days, with fallen leaves landscapes, yellow and ocher tinted trees, baskets with mushrooms and still lifes with chestnuts and walnuts, but the pumpkins had never quite left. Thanks to the great diversity of varietiesAnd also due to its long conservation, this vegetable can be enjoyed all year round, although it is true that it is in autumn when you most want to take advantage of it.
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Description and general characteristics
The pumpkin is the fruit of the gourd, it belongs to a well-known family in our kitchens, the cucurbits. It is a relative, therefore, of the zucchini, cucumber, watermelon or melon, climbing or creeping plants of which there are more than 800 varieties around the world.
Pumpkins are plants that they grow spreading across the ground in the form of a vine, with branches capable of colonizing the ground quickly, intertwining and forming sometimes twisted knots. The leaves are generally large and broad, lobed, and covered with a light hair. The flowers closely resemble those of zucchini, yellow or more orange, trumpet-shaped.
The fruits or berries generally grow at ground level, appearing between the leaves and branches and can reach an enormous size, depending on the variety. They may be rounded or elongated, flat or violin-shaped, with smooth or rough skin. The color also varies a lot, from pale cream or almost white to deep oranges and a whole range of greens. What does characterize the pumpkins is the harder, more or less thick skin, and an interior that keeps the seeds in the center, flat.
The meat or pulp is generally soft but not as soft as zucchini or cucumber, and contains less water. Depending on the variety, it may present a more orange or paler color, with a uniform or fibrous texture.
Origin and current cultivation
The exact origin of the pumpkin is not known, since it is very complex to trace a single birth as such in a plant that actually offers many variants and that is distributed globally for millennia. Despite the gender curcubita pepo It does seem to come from Mesoamerica, some researchers place other ancestors of current pumpkins in areas of Asia or Africa, from where it would spread across half the planet, emerging and evolving into different varieties, adapting to each region.
We know that the ancient peoples already knew the pumpkin, in its wild forms and that they also cultivated it, with numerous uses beyond the consumption of its pulp. Most likely, in the beginning would be appreciated more for the use of the seeds and the carcass itself of the fruit, which thanks to its hardness and shape offered -and offers- great practical use as a container, tool or musical instrument.
The pumpkin vinatera or Lagenaria siceraria It does seem clearer that its origin is in South Asia, although remains of its use dating back to the 12th millennium BC have been found on the African and American continents. It is considered one of the first plants cultivated and domesticated by humans.
Pumpkin cultivation was thriving in hot and humid areasIts development being more complex in very cold or dry climates, as it needs a lot of sun and does not resist well to frost. There is also no scientific consensus on how the first pumpkins would arrive in America; perhaps it was the seeds by sea, or perhaps through colonizers.
In Spain, pumpkin production has long been limited more to the winter season, but its cultivation has multiplied in just a decade. The cultivated area, in the different varieties, has grown 156% in ten years, with 130,200 tons collected in 2019, in 4100 hectares. According to Eurostat data, in 2018 Spain was the leading producer of pumpkins in the European Union, and its demand continues to grow.
Traditionally the best time of consumption is from the beginning of summer to the end of autumn, although today, production extends to practically twelve months of the year. This wide range, together with the excellent yields of post-harvest pumpkins, ensure that we can enjoy the vegetable at any time. A healthy pumpkin, whole and with the stem intact, can be stored for months and months in a dark, cool and well-ventilated place.
Main types of pumpkin on the market
The arrival of traditional pumpkins from other countries, together with the development of new varieties and the recovery of local products, make complex to establish a complete list of all the types of pumpkin that today we can find in stores. The diversity of names and nicknames makes the task more complicated, but we can list a number of the most common generic varieties.
- Butternut, peanut or fiddle. It is the most cultivated in Spain, also the one that has believed the most in this epoch. Call squash in English, thus clearly differentiating itself from the pumpkin Typical of Halloween, the peanut pumpkin is elongated, with light, smooth skin, with a wider base and bright orange flesh. It is one of the most versatile and grateful for cooking, with the thin skin and the brown pulp, firm and very tasty, without being excessively sweet.
- Potimarrón or Hokkaido. More rounded and flattened, with fruits that do not usually exceed a kilo and a half in weight, although it can grow much more if it is left to its own devices. The skin is harder, more intense orange and furrowed with parallel vertical lines of a lighter shade. Even less appreciated in Spain, its cultivation is devoted almost entirely to European export. It is more typical of winter, less watery and sweeter.
- Basque or Mallorca. It is reminiscent of the peanut for its shape, although it can be much larger, with a very elongated body. The skin is dark green with elongated lighter stripes, which can color the skin in yellowish tones. The pulp of an intense orange color darker than the peanut.
- Cucurbita maxima. We could say that it is the classic Halloween pumpkin, the most iconic that everyone visualizes when thinking about this vegetable. Rounded, flat, of variable size that can reach very large dimensions, with a somewhat rough and hard skin, crossed by more or less deep furrows from the upper end to the base.
- Sweet Oven Pumpkin. More rustic in appearance than the previous one but with a similar shape, although it can grow more cylindrical and elongated and not so rounded. The skin is thick, rough and very hard, typical of winter, with a long conservation and multiple culinary uses.
- Totanera pumpkin. Very typical in the Region of Murcia and nearby areas, it has a similar shape to the previous one but is clearly distinguished by its thick dark green skin, full of warts or irregular bulbs. The inner meat can have an intense orange or more yellowish color, and it is highly appreciated in stews and stews. It can reach a large size, always rounded and flattened.
- Gray pumpkin. Similar to the totanera but with a smooth skin, divided into more pronounced segments by the grooves that run from one end to the other. It is distinguished by that more homogeneous, fine skin, and the dull, grayish ocher color. The pulp is firm and dense, dark orange or somewhat yellowish in color.
Citron, confectionery or angel hair. Sometimes the term of citron for another variety slightly different from the confectionery, but in Spain it is customary to use the three names for it. It is a pumpkin whose almost exclusive use is dedicated to making angel hair, also for other confectionery or very sweet preparations. It is cylindrical, wide, very juicy and stringy, with great sweetness and a dense texture. It has a green skin dotted with whitish spots and grooves.
Spaghetti. Named for its peculiar pulp, very filamentous, difficult to cut or crush to make creams or the like. The typical way of cooking it is whole or in halves, to get that pulp in the form of thick filaments, with the appearance of noodles or spaghetti. On the outside it is cylindrical and flat, with a very pale yellowish color on both the skin and the pulp.
- Bonatera or patisson. Also called “Peter Pan” because of the curious shape of a hat or beret it presents. It is small, very flat and flattened, usually white, although there are also other varieties with green or orange colors. It is more appreciated for ornamental than culinary purposes, although it is just as valid as the violin for making creams, stews, roasts or gratins. Being a traditional summer crop, its skin is thinner, and can be left unpeeled in the youngest and smallest specimens.
- Butternut or Musquée de Provence. It is believed native to Mexico and Peru, and more appreciated in Europe also for decorative purposes. Rounded and flat, dark green with pale lines that can mature to bronze tones. The meat is orange and somewhat reddish.
- Vinatera or pilgrim gourd. Also known as white Valencian gourd, very popular for centuries as an instrument or tool for various uses, for example as a canteen, once emptied, dried and cured. The pulp is white and tender, more reminiscent of a zucchini.
Nutritional properties and benefits
Overall, the …