Pumpkins 101

Pumpkins 101
Published: Sep. 26, 2023 at 4:03 PM CDT
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MILAN, Ill. (KWQC) -Emily Swihart, University of Illinois Extension Educator of Horticulture, shares plenty of interesting pumpkin facts--including how to keep your squash fresh and what to do when display season is over.

Pumpkins are part of the Curcubitaceae family, including other familiar plants such as squash, cucumbers, melons, and gourds. If allowed to go to maturity, cucurbits typically produce a round, orange fruit- and yes, pumpkins are horticulturally classified as fruit, not a vegetable.

Pumpkins in Illinois

  • Between 90 -95% of processing pumpkins are grown in Illinois making it the pumpkin capitol of the world
  • Most (80%) of the pumpkins grown in Illinois aren’t your average carving pumpkins, but processing pumpkins used to make canned pumpkins.

So much variety

  • Breeding has produced several varieties for all sorts of purposes. Nearly all of the pumpkins and gourds are in three species: Cucurbita maxima, Cucurbita moschata, and primarily Cucurbita pepo

Picking pumpkins

  • First, choose a pumpkin with a stem
  • Many people look for a nice round pumpkin, but in reality, the shape of the pumpkin isn’t important. A flat bottom helps keep the pumpkin upright if wanting to carve it
  • Examine pumpkins for soft spots, mold, wrinkles, holes or open cuts. If you find any of these, move to the next pumpkin because these areas will rot
  • Clean pumpkin with a mild bleach solution (20%) to remove soil and bacteria that can promote rot. Carved pumpkin cuts can be coated with petroleum jelly to help prevent moisture loss
  • Keep your pumpkin cool and dry, this will help extend the life of your pumpkin

After the holidays

  • Leaving pumpkins in a field or ditch is considered littering and throwing them away in the garbage adds organic matter to landfills where the material is buried and rots in an anerobic environment creating the potent greenhouse gas methane
  • Compost pumpkins: Pumpkins can be incorporated into a designated compost pile
  • Find a composting facility: drop off your old Halloween pumpkins at a municipal or commercial composting facility

University of Illinois Extension has a terrific online resource featuring “Pumpkins and More” for recipes, nutritional content, pumpkin history and facts, how to grow pumpkins, etc. Visit this link to find this information.

University of Illinois Extension is located at 321 West 2nd Avenue, Milan. If you are looking for more in-depth information, contact the Illinois Extension office at https://extension.illinois.edu/hmrs or call 309-756-9978.