Pumpkin – Cucurbita pepo

Pumpkins
Pumpkins

Peter, Peter, pumpkin eater
Had a wife and couldn’t keep her.
He put her in a pumpkin shell
And there he kept her very well

 

This squash is a member of the cucumber family and is native to the western hemisphere. It was commonly used by Native Americans for many diverse things. In companion gardening it grows well with corn, beans, buckwheat, catnip, tansy, and radishes. The Cherokee (among others) used a companion type of gardening known as the ‘Three Sisters.’ Pumpkin, beans, and corn are the three planted together. These three made up the bulk of the plants grown by the Cherokee, and were their main food crops. The corn uses lots of nitrogen and the bean fixes nitrogen into the soil. The beans used the corn stalks to then grow up, much like a trellis. The pumpkin provides shade for the base of the other two plants with its large leaves which allows the soil to hold more moisture during dry times.

 

Pumpkins have uses as medicine and food, it also has other uses. Strips of pumpkin were dried and woven into mats. The pulp, the seeds, and the oil are used in cosmetics.

            Pulp: used as a moisturizer for dry and sensitive skin, to treat acne, reduce pore size

            Juice: Used as a skin tonic

            Seeds: With seed skins removed, powdered used as a pack on the face for refreshing the

            skin, to remove freckles

 

As medicine the seeds are the main part used. The oil obtained from the seed is used to treat prostate problems, kidney issues, help maintain healthy blood vessels, nerves, and tissues. The seeds were also used as a vermifuge, the US Pharmacopeia listed them from 1863 – 1936 as an official medicine.

As food the best known use today is the Thanksgiving pie, but it can be used making breads & muffins, butters, custard, cookies, and even soup. In Italy it is used to stuff ravioli! In the old days the pumpkin would be sliced into strips or rings and dried for winter use. Often the flesh was roasted with the skin on, and then enjoyed with the meal. In China the leaves are used as a vegetable or added to soups. The seeds are used as snack foods!

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