From the revered early testimony of farming culture to animal feed that was underestimated and denigrated as tasteless to he althy gourmet enjoyment: That is the history of the pumpkin in a nutshell. A small dedication. Take a Hokkaido, giant or garden pumpkin, remove the seeds with a spoon and scoop out the rest. Then fry the pulp in the pan with onions and potatoes, pour in plenty of broth and let the mixture simmer until the ingredients are soft. Then puree the contents, refine with a dash of cream and plenty of pepper and sprinkle the soup with a few roasted and peeled pumpkin seeds before serving - a fine autumn dish is ready. Incidentally, depending on its size, the hollowed-out fruit body can be used as a temporary soup tureen or – to the delight of the children – as a macabre carved lantern.
Fueled by the originally Celtic custom of celebrating Halloween on October 31, which spilled over from North America, the pumpkin is experiencing a remarkable renaissance in this country. What used to be more of a poor man's meal, you can now get delicacies from this fruit, which actually counts as a berry, even in starred restaurants. It is often used in soups and vegetable side dishes, but also in jams or preserves. The seeds are used as a flavorful oil or simply as a he althy snack that can have a calming effect on an irritable bladder. And even the blossoms are fried and offer a tasty, albeit slightly caloric delicacy due to the way they are prepared.
The Indians of North and South America appreciated the taste and effect of the plant, so that it quickly became one of the first cultivated plants of mankind: Pumpkins were probably planted in the New World as early as 10,000 years ago - in different varieties Sorts. Thus, the common or edible squash (Cucurbita pepo) conquered the gardens of the natives of Mexico, while the stately giant squash (Cucurbita maxima) enriched the diet of early Peruvians. With the Spanish colonizers, these varieties came to Europe, where their cultivation is documented for the first time a little later in the 16th century; By the 17th century, their use had spread to East Germany. While pumpkins are now being grown on a large scale in Latin America, in the south of the USA and in Japan, as well as in Italy and Spain - and hobby breeders sometimes achieve record colossuses weighing up to 681.3 kilograms - commercial use in Germany is more of a niche existence. Only a few hundred hectares are reserved for their production.
It is difficult to compare the data, at least across Europe, because in many cases the statistics do not distinguish between the "classic" pumpkins and their close relatives of this large family. The zucchini (Cucurbita pepo giromontiina) is one of them, as are various melons (Cucumis genus), the cucumber (Cucumis sativus) and countless crosses with each other, which have led to an almost unmanageable variety of varieties with motley colors and shapes. The plants are monoecious, but with separate sexual flowers: male and female organs are on the same individual, but not in the same calyx. Their always yellow color in edible and ornamental gourds primarily attracts bumblebees, which transfer the pollen from one to the other.
As a further typical feature, many species develop tendrils - specially modified leaves with which they wind up trees or optionally also fences. Sometimes this happens at breathtaking speeds, because at least in the temperate latitudes the pumpkins use the comparatively short vegetation period from May to October to send shoots up to 15 meters long into the environment. The flesh of all their fruits is extremely rich in water - and therefore low in calories: With only around 25 calories per 100 grams of mass, it is particularly pleasing to he alth-conscious people.
Nevertheless, the plants are true fountains of he alth, because they have plenty of vitamins A, C and E as well as carotenoids, which not only make the real pumpkins yellow, but also, as effective antioxidants, eliminate potentially cancer-causing oxygen radicals. The pulp also contains silicic acid, which has a positive effect on the skin, connective tissue and nails, as well as plenty of minerals such as potassium, magnesium and iron. Finally, phytosterols accumulated in the nuclei slow down benign prostate enlargement in men over the age of fifty or even completely prevent it in the initial stage. In view of all these positive qualities, it is then quite easy to taste a small pumpkin liqueur after a hearty meal of pumpkins, as it is distilled in Dobrovnik in Slovenia - meanwhile, the children can frighten the neighborhood with pumpkin grimaces.