By Sara Thompson
Special to the Enterprise
Pumpkins are one of the most common fall sights. Their growing season is during late summer and they are ripe just as the seasons begin to change. Many use them as decorations for generic fall and harvest décor, while others carve them for jack-o-lanterns. As people begin to carve pumpkins this year not many think about all the parts they are scooping out and what their purpose is.
Starting with the exterior of a pumpkin, one of a pumpkin’s defining features is its stem. The stem is where a pumpkin is attached to the vine and receives its nutrients. As the pumpkin ripens the stem will turn from green to brown and will eventually detach from the vine. Next is the skin of a pumpkin. Pumpkins come in over 150 varieties and can range in color from orange, yellow, green, white, and more! Most people look for the orange and yellow varieties for harvest festivals and decorations. The skin is there to protect the fruit from disease and insects. The skin is not toxic but is very tough and bitter and not recommended for consumption. At the bottom of the pumpkin is a hard knot. This is where the blossom was on the vine. When the flower was pollinated, that is when the change to a pumpkin began. Where the blossom attached to the vine will become the stem, and the ends of the blossom will wither and harden into the blossom end.
Inside the pumpkin also has a variety of structures. The main flesh of the pumpkin is called the pulp. This is what pumpkin puree and pies are made from. There are countless ways to cook and prepare the pulp to make a delicious meal, either sweet or savory. Attached to the pulp are fibrous strands that help contain and protect the seeds. Often scooped out and discarded, the strands are actually very flavorful and good for making stocks and other foods. The seeds are at the very center of a pumpkin. These can be roasted and eaten or planted to make more pumpkins. A single pumpkin seed can produce two-five pumpkins.
If you are carving a pumpkin for Halloween, keeping it whole for decorations, or even chopping it up for cooking, take the time to look at it and try to identify the parts.
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