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Enormous Pumpkins

Are the large pumpkins often weighing hundreds of pounds really pumpkins or squash?

Pumpkins, squash and gourds all belong to the Cucurbitacea family.  Within in this large grouping are about 700 subgroups or species that include the squash, pumpkins, gourds, cucumbers, and melons. 

One of the groups (Cucurbita pepo) includes what most people consider the “true” pumpkin.  It has bright orange skin and a hard, woody and furrowed stem.  This group also includes gourds, and summer squash. 

The huge record breaking pumpkins we often see in the largest vegetable competitions belong to the Cucurbita maxima species.  These “pumpkins" have more yellow than orange skins and their stems are soft and spongy without ridges or a swelling next to the fruit.  They are often called pumpkin-squash or squash-type pumpkins.  This group also includes banana, buttercup, turban and most winter squash. 

The third common group is Cucurbita moschata.  Their fruit are usually oblong, more tan than orange with a deeply ridged stem that is enlarged next to the fruit.  Much of the canned pumpkin in the US comes from a member of this group.  Other members include winter crookneck and butternut squash.


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