Pumpkin, what is it actually good for and how to use it in the kitchen?
What does it offer the human body and is it even beneficial to health?
You certainly don’t know all its varieties, but what about the most common ones: spaghetti, butter, acorn or Hokkaido – do you know how to process them?
Read this comprehensive article to learn everything you need to know about pumpkins and more!
Pumpkin or gourd?
Pumpkins are popular versatile crops that can be used in the preparation of both savory and sweet dishes. “Pumpkin” is not their botanical name, but a gourd. It belongs to the genus Cucurbita , which includes more than a thousand species of crops, including summer and winter squash, melons, cucumbers, and more.
Summer squashes are harvested in an unripe state, which is why their skin is soft and therefore edible without any problems. The designation “summer” refers to a short shelf life, it is zucchini and patison in all color variants.
Winter squashes, aka pumpkins, are harvested at a ripe stage, so their peel is no longer a peel but a hard crust, and they are also full of seeds. Compared to summer squashes, winter squashes can be stored for a really long time, their shelf life can be even more than half a year.
Pumpkin and healthy vitamins
Pumpkins are extremely rich in nutrients, minerals, vitamins and antioxidants, and they are also low in calories and fat. One cup of cooked pumpkin puree provides the human body with over 88% of the daily dose of vitamin A, 35% of beta-carotene and 16% of the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin.
| Raw pumpkin|
| Boiled pumpkin|
|Energy value||26 kcal||20 calories|
|Proteins||1 g||0.72 g|
|Fats||0.1 g||0.07 g|
|Carbohydrates||6.5 g||4.9 g|
|Fiber||0.5 g||1.1 g|
|Sugars||2.76 g||2.08 g|
|Potassium||340 mg||230 mg|
|Zinc||0.32 mg||0.23 mg|
|Niacin||0.6 mg||0.413 mg|
|Choline||8.2 mg||6.2 mg|
|Vitamin A||426 µg||288 µg|
|Beta-carotene||3100 µg||2100 µg|
|Lutein and zeaxanthin||1500 µg||1010 µg|
Vitamin A strengthens immunity and thus helps the body fight infections. It is particularly important for strengthening the intestinal microflora, which makes it more resistant to rotaviruses, adenoviruses and astroviruses, the causative agents of viral gastroenteritis (diarrhoea).
The beta-carotene contained in pumpkin has very promising effects in the treatment of colon cancer. According to studies, it also appears as an “elixir of youth”. Not only does the consumption of beta-carotene strengthen the skin from the inside and thus protect it from harmful UV radiation, but it also helps to improve its appearance and elasticity. In women over 50, a dose of 30 mg daily reduces the number of wrinkles and increases skin shedding by 44%. Food supplements containing beta-carotene thus prevent premature aging of the skin.
Edible types of pumpkins
Traditional pumpkins, botanically referred to as C. pepo, C. moschata and C. maxima , commonly weigh between
5-9 kilograms. However, it is no exception that some varieties quite regularly reach a weight of 40 kg. Marked differences across the species C. pepo, C. moschata and C. maxima caused some varieties and cultivars to be mistakenly labeled as separate species in the past.
But in reality, all edible winter squashes belong to only three (very similar) species, which include more than 1,000 other cultivars and varieties.
The most famous edible varieties:
|Cucurbita moschata||Cucurbita maxima||Cucurbita pepo|
| Brazilian Curvy,|
butternut squash ,
or West Indian pumpkin,
Musquée de Provence,
Long Island cheese pumpkin
| Hokkaido ,|
or French turban,
Kabocha, or Japanese pumpkin,
Fairytale alias Páhádka
| Delicata or sweet potato pumpkin ,|
spaghetti squash ,
acorn squash ,
Kamo kamo or Kumi kumi,
Hokkaido pumpkin: What you don’t know about it + recipe tips!
The name of this pumpkin reveals where it comes from – the island of Hokkaido in Japan. It is one of the most popular pumpkin varieties and is grown in many places, including Europe. It is therefore not an exception that you will commonly meet Hokkaido pumpkins in Czech gardens. It is very undemanding to grow and grows literally like a weed, it can also be grown in a flower pot on the balcony.
Hokkaido ( C. maxima ), also known as red Kuri pumpkin, has bright yellow sweet flesh that tastes like chestnut. The longer it is stored, the more it matures and becomes sweeter.
Hokkaido Pumpkin Recipes
- The most famous dish is undoubtedly the soup. There are several versions of them, check out the top recipes for Hokkaido pumpkin soup and don’t be afraid to try, for example, the one with ginger, which will warm you even in the coldest weather.
- A healthy snack or a light lunch – these are pumpkin fries. The recipe for Hokkaido fries is also extremely simple, you can do without frying and thus save a lot of greasy dishes!
- Due to its sweet and distinctive chestnut taste, Hokkaido pumpkins are also suitable for sweet dishes. It is thus commonly used in compotes, marmalades and jams, or as a basic ingredient in sponge cake or pumpkin pie .
- Hokkaido pumpkin is also suitable for preparing pumpkin puree, which you can use as a healthier alternative to potatoes, cereals or rice.
Onions, garlic, leeks, bay leaves, basil, chives, oregano, thyme, rosemary, curry, cinnamon, nutmeg, cranberries, maple syrup, pecans, beans, lentils, goat and sheep cheese, parmesan and olive oil – all of it you can combine it with Hokkaido pumpkin and the result will always taste wonderful.
You can eat the skin of this pumpkin. When you grate it, gently fry it and season it – it perfectly complements a vegetable salad or a mixture of root vegetables.
Butternut squash: What is it and how to cook it?
Butternut squash, also known as “nut squash”, has a bottle shape, i.e. a long neck and a short, plump end. The skin of this pumpkin has a dull beige color, the flesh is deep orange.
As the name suggests, butternut squash has a starchy, pliable, buttery texture similar to, for example, sweet potatoes. Its taste is similar to carrots, although a little less sweet, with a nutty touch.
Butternut squash ( C. moschata ) is a relatively new, human-bred variety. It is very popular, mainly because of its thin, easy-to-peel skin. Compared to other types, its (unusable for cooks) cavity has a small size, so even fewer seeds and thus a larger layer of pulp, butternut squash offers for culinary processing.
Butternut Squash Recipe Tips:
- Butternut squash is really soft when cooked, it tends to puree naturally and is therefore excellent in baked dishes. It is excellent, for example, in a recipe for baked minced lamb , in combination with parmesan and pine nuts, it will really excite you!
- Cooked or pureed, it is also popularly used as a filling for vegan tortillas or as a pizza sauce.
- Soft, delicious and beautifully creamy – that’s exactly what butternut squash risotto is. Try any pumpkin risotto recipe , you will be surprised how delicious and really buttery it is!
Butternut squash works well in combination with thyme, allspice, soy sauce, apple, pear, plum, cinnamon, vanilla, chocolate or cocoa, walnuts, cream (even sour), feta cheese, Balkan cheese, cheddar, bacon and bacon.
Spaghetti squash: Why is it the easiest to prepare and where to use it?
Spaghetti squash has several different color variants, the yellow and orange versions are most often available in stores. Compared to other varieties, spaghetti squash ( C. pepo ) has much larger seeds and is often mistaken for a yellow melon due to its elongated, more cylindrical shape.
It is popular because of its unique flesh, which is made up of individual hairs or spaghetti (hence its name “spaghetti”). This pumpkin pasta is really tasty, soft, but at the same time so-called with a bite. They became famous mainly during World War 2, when they were considered a common alternative to pasta, since staple foods were not available at that time.
How to easily get spaghetti from this pumpkin?
- Preheat the oven to 200°C.
- Split the spaghetti squash lengthwise and scoop out the seeds.
- Brush the inner flesh lightly with olive oil.
- Place the halved pumpkin cut side up on the baking sheet and bake for 35-45 minutes.
- Spaghetti pumpkin is properly cooked when you can really easily and easily “scrape” the individual spaghetti from the flesh with a fork.
Recipes and spaghetti squash in the main role
- Spaghetti squash tends to absorb the flavors of all other ingredients, so it is used in combination with ingredients that have an intense and specific aroma. A prime example of how to make the most of the properties of spaghetti squash is the recipe for Pumpkin Risotto with Shrimp, Sage and Wine .
- Pumpkin Spaghetti is suitable as a side dish to all known sauces, it can also be used as a substitute for wheat noodles in the recipe for Asian Chow Mein .
- Similarly, you can also use spaghetti squash in cold cooking, try it in vegetable and pasta salads, or in the Thai dish Pad Thai , which is ready in 30 minutes.
Yellow spaghetti squash tastes best in combination with tomatoes, onions, garlic, root vegetables, cucumber, zucchini, peas, mushrooms, thyme, basil, oregano, parsley, mint, soy sauce, tamari sauce, cream, white wine, ricotta, mozzarella, shrimp, tuna, chicken, ground beef and dried beef.
The orange version of spaghetti squash goes well with broccoli, green beans, onions, garlic, leeks, oregano, cilantro, cumin, basil, walnuts, parmesan and turkey.
Acorn squash: Why you should know it and how to use it in recipes.
Acorn or pepper pumpkin is often confused with patison. Patison (patizon), however, is a type of summer squash, while the acorn squash is a winter squash and is only harvested when ripe. It is one of the first varieties of pumpkin that was cultivated by Native Americans and brought to Europe after 1492.
Similar to butternut squash, acorn squash ( C. pepo ) offers a large layer of flesh that can be processed in the kitchen. The most common variant is dark green with irregular yellow or orange spots, followed by solid yellow called gold. Both of these versions have a sweet nutty flavor and are rather drier than other pumpkin cultivars.
There are also white and so-called carnival pumpkins. The white variation is known for its typical taste, reminiscent of hazelnut with a pinch of pepper. The most colorful carnival one tastes very similar to butternut squash, but it also smells like maple syrup.
Acorn squash in the kitchen or in which recipes to use it:
- You can use absolutely all the colorful versions of the acorn squash like the Native Americans once did – that is, as a bowl. These pumpkins are usually cut in half and hollowed out, then baked and then used as edible bowls filled with meat, cheese, fruit or soups. Similarly, you can also bake food in these “pumpkin bowls”, for example, try one of the recipes for baked mushrooms and bake them in an acorn squash instead of in a baking dish!
- Acorn squash is perfect for preparing healthy spreads that will delight you with their atypical taste. Get inspired by non-traditional recipes for pumpkin spreads and try to create a sweet creamy dip from the white (“hazelnut”) and a spicy pumpkin salsa from the classic dark green.
Green acorn squash works well with mushrooms, balsamic vinegar, olive and rice oils, maple and date syrup, sage, rosemary, curry, chili, cranberries, lingonberries, apple, edamame, gouda and bacon.
Golden goes well with honey, maple syrup, pomegranate, coriander, mint, lime, lemon, ginger, shallots, walnuts, sesame, butter, lamb and pork.
Then combine the white acorn squash with apples, pears, plums, apricots, blueberries, blackberries, honey, maple and chicory syrup, cinnamon, star anise, cloves, rice and couscous.
The colorful, carnival version of acorn squash tastes best with garlic, onion, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg and flower, pepper, romadur and other ripening cheeses, lamb and pork, dried or smoked meat.
Delicata or sweet potato pumpkin, how is it different and what recipes does it belong to?
Sweet potato or peanut pumpkin ( Delicata squash ) is a variety bred only in 1990. It has smaller fruits with orange or green stripes, which are easily recognizable at first glance. Of all known pumpkin cultivars, sweet potato is, as the name suggests, the sweetest.
Delicata pumpkin ( C. pepo ) is popular primarily because it thrives in colder conditions and has a long shelf life – it can last over a year under the right storage conditions. It tastes best immediately after harvest, the older it gets, the more sweetness it loses and becomes bland and “nothing”.
This variety is also very easy to prepare, its skin is thin and edible, so after cooking, the sweet potato can be eaten whole and does not need to be peeled.
Sweet potato pumpkin in recipes:
- Due to its colorful and non-traditional appearance, it is used as a grilled meat side dish cut into slices. Get inspired by the top recipes for vegetables on the grill and don’t forget to include the sweet potato pumpkin, which will cheer up every served plate in an unconventional way.
- Because of its extremely sweet taste and soft, creamy texture, sweet potato squash is most suitable for sweet dishes. Whether you add it to rice pudding instead of fruit, or bake pumpkin cheesecake or vanilla-pumpkin bread pudding – you will be delighted and definitely won’t regret it.
Apples, pears, rhubarb, gooseberries, oranges, pineapple, vanilla, cinnamon, poppy seeds, nougat, maple, date and chicory syrup, fennel, arugula, chard, spinach, walnuts, hazelnuts and pecans, cranberries, cane sugar, blue cheeses and roast poultry – everything tastes delicious with sweet potato squash.
Which edible pumpkin must (not) be peeled
| must be peeled|
the skin is hard
and poorly digestible
| does not need to be peeled off|
the skin is relatively thin
|white acorn squash||Delicata aka Sweet Potato Pumpkin|
|carnival acorn pumpkin||golden acorn squash|
|spaghetti squash||green acorn squash|
|butter pumpkin||Hokkaido pumpkin|
How to prepare and process pumpkin
Pumpkins tend to be very hard and unyielding, so cutting them requires not only a sharp but a large (wide) knife. It is important to place the pumpkin on a non-slip surface so that it remains stable and only then try to cut it, gradually, first from one side and then from the other. If the pumpkin skin is particularly firm, it is necessary to literally “hammer” the knife into the pumpkin, for example with a meat mallet or rolling pin.
After dividing into two parts, it is necessary to dig out the seeds from the pulp, including the fibrous parts on which the seeds stick. If it is not a cultivar with a thin edible skin, these pieces must be peeled first and then cut into the desired smaller pieces or slices.
In what ways can pumpkin be cooked?
- You can cook it classically in a pot and in water. Pumpkin, cut into three-centimeter pieces, can be boiled until soft in 20 minutes.
- Similarly, you can also steam pumpkin in 30 minutes, either using a pot and a steamer or in a steamer. Read reviews of the best steamers and get to know all the advantages of this kitchen helper, with which you can prepare several different types of food at once.
- Cut into pieces and baked in the oven at 180°C, the pumpkin is ready in 40 minutes.
- The so-called roasted pumpkin is baked at 160 °C for at least 60 minutes, and then only halved, when each of the two pieces is rubbed with olive oil and placed on baking paper with the cavity down (skin side up).
- You can blend cooked, roasted or roasted pumpkin into pumpkin puree or puree. It can also be mashed like mashed potatoes.
|boiled pumpkin||steamed pumpkin||roasted pumpkin||roasted pumpkin|
| cut into pieces|
| cut into pieces|
| cut into pieces|
| split in half|
TOP recipe for Pumpkin Spice Latte
The pumpkin is literally the American icon of autumn. In 2003, the well-known and popular company Starbucks introduced a pumpkin coffee called Pumpkin Spice Latte. You can prepare this excellent autumn coffee at home, without artificial ingredients, easily and quickly!
Necessary raw materials:
- 2 cups milk, preferably whole milk
- 4 tablespoons of pumpkin puree
- 1 tablespoon of cane sugar
- 2 teaspoons of vanilla flavoring
- 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice mix (cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves)
- 1 cup of brewed strong, still hot coffee (espresso)
- Prepare a microwave-safe container.
- Pour milk, vanilla flavoring, pumpkin puree, cane sugar and pumpkin spice into it, mix.
- Place in the microwave and cook, watching constantly, for 1-2 minutes until the milk foams and thickens.
- Divide into three mugs, into which then pour hot coffee (in the middle of the milk foam).
- Decorate with whipped cream, cinnamon or grated chocolate. Serve hot.
What is the shelf life of the pumpkin?
in a dark place
at room temperature
in a fridge
in the freezer
|whole raw pumpkin||3 months||5 months||7 months|
|chopped raw pumpkin||3 days||2 months||8 months|
|boiled, baked pumpkin||2 days||1 week||6 months|
|canned pumpkin marmalade||6 months||10 months||1 year|
You can store pumpkin in the freezer, but if you decide to thaw it, you must use it immediately. Thawed and unprocessed pumpkin spoils within 1 day.
How to tell in the store that the pumpkin is spoiled
1. The pumpkin should have a pleasant, slightly sweet smell. So don’t be afraid to smell the pumpkin. The smell indicates the presence of bacteria, fungi or mold, and smelly pumpkins can be unsafe to eat within a few hours.
2. Fresh pumpkin also has a vibrant color. If you notice dull, grayish spots on the skin, the pumpkin is starting to rot.
3. Inspect it from all sides to see if it has holes or bruises in the skin. How the pumpkin has been handled determines its shelf life. If the skin or flesh is damaged, it spoils more easily and quickly.
4. The pumpkin spoils especially from the bottom, i.e. at the place where it came into contact with the ground. Therefore, always check the bottom for mold. Moldy pumpkin will completely spoil within 2 days.
5. Tap the pumpkin in the same way as you are used to with a watermelon, it should sound similar – hollow.
6. Test the strength of the stem. If it is soft, loose and barely holding onto the pumpkin, the pumpkin is probably rotting from the inside. The same is true when the pumpkin is wet (liquid oozes out of it).
7. The pumpkin should be heavier than it looks at first glance. So if it seems too light to you, you may not only have a wrong weight estimate, but the pumpkin may be attacked by insects that feed on the flesh from the inside.
Pumpkin oil is obtained by pressing raw or roasted pumpkin seeds. Similar to olive oil, pumpkin oil also has a low smoke point (160 °C), so it is not suitable for heat treatment. However, it is commonly used in cold cooking, to drip and flavor already prepared dishes, for example, roast meats and fish, grilled vegetables, soups and even desserts.
Pumpkin oil is a traditional specialty used mainly in Austria, Slovenia, Romania, Hungary and Croatia. It has an intense nutty flavor and a rich reddish color, which is why it is popular in the above-mentioned countries as a topping for vanilla ice cream and whipped cream desserts. A typical Austrian salad dressing consists of pumpkin oil and apple cider vinegar.
Pumpkin oil is associated with several health benefits, which is why it is available on the market not only in the form of cooking oil, but also in the form of capsules, food supplements or as part of cosmetic products.
Medicinal effects of pumpkin oil
Research has shown that pumpkin seed oil has very positive effects on the health of postmenopausal women. Just 2 ml a day stabilizes blood pressure and also relieves unpleasant symptoms of menopause, including headaches and joint pain. Women who use pumpkin seed oil also usually feel less depressed and downcast.
According to the latest studies, pumpkin oil helps treat urinary disorders, including a disease called overactive bladder, which affects more than 15% of people over 40 years of age. It has such huge potential that in the future it could become the only known prevention of this disease.
Pumpkin seeds offer a large amount of antioxidants and minerals, including magnesium, zinc, iron. They also contain the amino acid tryptophan, which is a basic element for the production of serotonin, which regulates good mood in the brain and thus maintains a feeling of happiness.
| Pumpkin seeds, roasted|
|Energy value||446 kcal|
Worth noting is the fact that pumpkin seeds provide 128% of the recommended daily allowance of zinc. The latter is essential for male fertility, i.e. it treats problems commonly associated with infertility, such as a lack of sperm (so-called oligospermia).
How to consume pumpkin seeds?
Pumpkin seeds can normally be bought in the store, either dried or roasted. You can also easily roast them at home.
- Wash the seeds hollowed out of the pumpkin to remove the remaining pulp.
- Preheat the oven to 180 °C, spread the seeds in a single layer on baking paper.
- Place the tray in the oven and bake for 30 minutes.
- The seeds can already be flavored with salt or other favorite spices during roasting.
- You can eat the roasted seeds alone as a snack or a healthy snack while watching TV. You can also sprinkle them on a vegetable or pasta salad.
Ornamental and inedible pumpkins
Some pumpkins or gourds can be toxic to humans because they contain substances called cucurbitacins, which the human body cannot digest. Consumption of inedible (i.e. decorative) pumpkins can lead to symptoms of poisoning: abdominal cramps, nausea, vomiting, bloody diarrhea and subsequent dehydration.
Cucurbitacins are produced by wild pumpkins as protection against insects (caterpillars). When ornamental and edible pumpkins are grown next to each other, the edible pumpkins may hybridize and produce cucurbitacins and become inedible. Although these inedible pumpkins look like the original edible pumpkins, they have an atypical bitter taste .
The most famous ornamental varieties:
- Angel Wing
- Sweet Dumpling
- Apple Gourd
- Baby Bear
- Pear Bicolor
- Connecticut Field
- Jack Be Quick
Giant pumpkins are large orange fruits of the species C. maxima , which commonly weigh up to 800 kg. These gourds are edible, but not used for human consumption, they have been grown as ornamentals for mass exhibitions since 1893.
The first sold cultivar of this large pumpkin is probably the Mammoth variety, followed by the better known Dill’s Atlantic Giant. Growing giant pumpkins is a prestigious business, and the seeds of award-winning or prize-winning pumpkins are very valuable. One such seed is normally sold for more than 20,000 CZK.
Giant pumpkins, like show dogs, have their pedigrees.
A giant pumpkin can grow up to 25 kg in a single day! New and significant genetic improvements are still underway, according to the latest calculations, the giant pumpkin could grow up to 9,000 kg without breaking under the weight. The last world record is held by an undamaged pumpkin, grown in 2021 in Italy, weighing an incredible 1,226 kg.
For its growth, the pumpkin requires a lot of water and heat, namely at least 8 hours of direct sunlight a day. Pumpkin seeds are planted in June, so that the harvest takes place in 90-120 days, i.e. in autumn.
Plants (pumpkin vines) grow very quickly and will uncompromisingly cover everything in their path. Therefore, it is advisable to plant pumpkins on the edges of gardens and direct the stems away from the crop during growth.
Cardboard or newspaper is usually placed between the growing pumpkin and the soil to prevent the fruit from contacting the ground and thus rotting. After harvesting, the cut pumpkins are left to ripen freely in the autumn sun for a few more days.
Pumpkins and interesting facts about them
Since pumpkins (fruits) develop from flowers and contain seeds, they are botanically a fruit, although they are used more like a vegetable in the kitchen.
Orange gourds are one of the oldest domesticated crops, having been cultivated for human consumption as early as 7,000 BC. In the past, they were used to treat intestinal worms, mainly to expel tapeworms.
Pumpkins are an irreplaceable part of traditional American celebrations, especially in autumn, when lanterns are carved from them, which are an important decoration for Halloween, or the eve of All Saints. Pumpkin pie is equally important on Thanksgiving. For this reason, in the US, more than 80% of the crop (810 million pumpkins) is ready for harvest in a single month – October.
What is Halloween?
A Celtic holiday that is celebrated on October 31st, i.e. the day before the Christian holiday of All Saints on November 1st, which is followed by the so-called All Souls’ Day, or the Remembrance of All Faithful Dead on November 2nd.
A cultivar of the Connecticut field pumpkin ( C. pepo Connecticut field ) is used to make Halloween lanterns. Like most known gourds, it has a rather round shape, an orange color and an average weight in the range of 7-12 kg.
How to carve a pumpkin for Halloween, simply and quickly:
What is Thanksgiving?
A traditional American holiday (English Thanksgiving Day ), which is set by law on the fourth Thursday in November, i.e. between November 22 and 28.
On this day “thanks to God” for that year’s harvest, it includes a family gathering with a rich feast, during which the aforementioned pumpkin pie and stuffed turkey with cranberry sauce are served. During one Thanksgiving, Americans consume over 50,000,000 turkeys.
The so-called Black Friday follows immediately after Thanksgiving.