|Scientific Name : Cucurbita maxima.|
|Family : Cucurbitaceae|
|Colour : Light yellow-orange to bright orange|
|Best Season : Throughout the year|
|Nutritional Value : Calories:32, Carotenes:3,255, Potassium : 280mg, Vitamin C: 15mg, Vitamin Esp; 1,8mg per 100g serving.|
Native to Central America, Pumpkins are a nutritious vegetable vine plant which date back many centuries. The name pumpkin originated from the Greek word 'pepon' for large melon. The French turned 'pepon' into 'pompon' and the English changed that into 'pumpion'. The present name pumpkin was chosen by American colonists. It was one of the major ingredients of the staple diet of native Americans and colonists. There are about 26 species of cucurbita.
The spherical shaped fruits range in weight from less than 0.5kg to more than 50kg. Its ability to grow to such a large size makes it the largest fruit in the plant kingdom. The pumpkin plant which grow up to 25 feet long produces both male and female bright yellow coloured flowers with five petals. The female flower has a little pumpkin at the bottom. The leaves are lobed with 3 or 5 lobes. Pumpkins were used to treat bladder problems and as a pain killer. Its seeds are an excellent source of fat and protein.Propagation and Planting
Propagation is through seeds. The best time to plant pumpkins is late May or early June. Seeds can be sown directly in the soil. Pumpkins grow best in sunny areas, where they could receive at least six hours of direct sunlight every day. Pumpkin plants love lots of growing space. Although not necessary, you can soak the pumpkin seeds in water the night before planting. This helps to soften the outer shell and make sprouting easier and faster. Since Pumpkins are a warm season crop they need fertile, aerated soil with a pH between 5.5 and 6.5. It is best to add nitrogen while preparing soil for planting.The planting hole should be about 2 feet apart and two seeds can be placed in each hole at a depth of 1” with the pointed side of the seed facing down. The seeds start germinating after 7 days.
Pumpkins need to be watered regularly throughout the growing season. Pumpkins need lots of indirect water, and the soil of the mound should be kept well moist but not wet, at all times. Remember not to water the pumpkin foliage. As it gets warmer you may need to water more than once a day. The best indicator is the plants leaves. If they are green and look healthy, they're probably getting enough water. If the leaves look wilted, they need more water.Varieties
Queensland Blue and Jarrahdale are two good keeping pumpkins. They have a blue-grey skin and rich yellow or orange flesh. The Butternut pumpkin is quite popular. The fruit can vary from pear-shaped to long or round and the flesh is orange. Golden Nugget grows on a bush approximately 60 cm high and 60 cm across. The skin is bright orange and the flesh is deep yellow. Other varieties of pumpkin are Baby Blue, Jap, Hartley's Ironbark, Hybrid Grey Crown, Buttercup, New Turks Turban and Papaw.Problems and Care
Pumpkins are susceptible to many diseases and insect pests. The main pests of pumpkins are aphids, pumpkin beetles, Cucumber beetles, squash vine borers and squash bugs and the leaf-eating ladybird. Dusting or spraying regularly before an infestation especially during egg laying and hatching, crop rotation etc is recommended.
Powdery mildew is a common disease of pumpkins. Downy mildew disease can also affect pumpkins. At times, pumpkins can become affected by watermelon mosaic virus. The symptoms are prominent mosaic patterns of light and dark green on the leaves and fruits. Plants infected at an early stage become stunted and their yield is decreased. Infected fruit show irregular, raised blisters. The disease is spread by aphids. Unfortunately, no varieties are resistant to this disease. Removing and burning all infected leaves and crops will help to check the spread of the virus.
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