Pumpkins (Curcurbita pepo) are members of the Curcurbitaceae (Gourd) Family, and a relative of melons and squash. Their genus is from the Latin for gourd and species name is derived from the Greek word for “Sun ripened.” Originating in Central America, pumpkins have long been considered a symbol of fertility. The Native peoples, who grew pumpkins, dried them and powdered them into flour.
Pumpkins are sweet, slightly bitter, neutral, to cooling.
Considered alkaline, they help dry dampness, thus benefiting conditions such as edema, eczema, and dysentery. This fruit benefits the spleen, stomach, and pancreas, thus benefiting hypoglycemia and diabetes. Pumpkins are considered antioxidant, diuretic, laxative and an immune tonic. They have been used to improve acidosis, colitis, gastritis, indigestion, cataracts, edema, flu, and heart disease.
Being rich in beta-carotene, pumpkins improve respiratory
health including asthma and coughs. They are believed to lower one’s risk of cancer, especially lung, skin and bladder. They also contain vitamin B, C, potassium, sodium and carbohydrates.
For centuries, Native American peoples have used mashed pumpkin as a topical soothing application for abscesses, boils, bruises, burns, carbuncles, headaches and sprains. Filipino peoples have used the sap from the pumpkin stem as an application for earaches. Even the heart shaped leaves have been used as a tea for treating diarrhea and as a plaster for chills and fevers. The beautiful delicate flowers have been administered as a tea for jaundice, measles and smallpox. Pumpkin seeds are rich in zinc, and especially strengthening to the adrenal glands and the prostate gland in men. Many cultures use the pumpkin seeds as a vermicide to help eliminate tapeworm and roundworm.
Look for firm, heavy for their size pumpkins with bright orange skin. Smaller “pie” pumpkins are conducive for eating, the larger varieties are better for Jack O’Lanterns. Open yourself to the delectable possibilities of pumpkin soup, muffins, pies, cookies, puddings, grated into salads and even mashed.