Pumpkin: Benefits, Origin, Industry and Much More

Did you know that pumpkin is considered one of the oldest crops in the world? Well, in this blog you’ll learn about the most known pumpkin species, its benefits, history, industry, cultivation and products. If you want to know more about this food, don’t hesitate to keep reading, you will find everything you are looking for.

What are pumpkins? 

Scientific nameCucurbita L.
Scientific name of its speciesCucurbita máxima  Cucurbita moschata Cucurbita pepo Cucurbita ficifolia
Place of OriginAmerica
HabitatWarm areas and regions
DistributionDiferent places worldwide

Pumpkin is a food that is called by different names from country to country or region, some of the names it receives are:

  • Auyama or ahuyama
  • Zucchini
  • Pumpkin or squash
  • Moranga
  • Ayote
  • Pipian
  • Tamalayotes
  • Chilacayotes, etc.

Types of pumpkins

Pumpkins belong to the Cucurbitaceae family, the same family of watermelon, melon or cucumber. They can be classified as vegetables, and the scientific name to identify the pumpkin in a general way is Cucurbita.

Pumpkins have a fleshy pulp and can have between 100 to 500 seeds. They have a high variability, which means that they have multiple species; however we can highlight the 5 most known and commercialized species of this vegetable in the world. This is why here you can learn a little bit about each species. let’s get started!

Curious fact:

In different parts of the world, such as the United States, Spain or Italy, there are giant pumpkin contests. There have even been cases of pumpkins that have weighed more than 1 ton (1,000 kilos).

Pumpkin cucurbita máxima 

The most common name for the cucurbita máxima is pumpkin. See, this is the pumpkin most popular among people because it represents a holiday celebrated in many parts of the world: Halloween. So read on to learn more about this species of pumpkin.

Plant description 

The cucurbita maxima pumpkin is a creeping plant. In botany they are given this name because they cover the ground where they grow and germinate, just like grass does.

Now, the leaves and stems are completely covered with small hairs that are soft instead of rough. Its leaves are more rounded and don’t have tips as pronounced as other species of squash: these can measure 26 cm wide approximately.

Pumpkins of this species are supported by a pendulum that often differs from the other species. It’s characterized by having a cylindrical shape, and is defined as spongy because it is not very rigid and the part of the pendulum insertion in the vegetable doesn’t expand.

Pumpkins belonging to the species cucurbita maxima have a high variability, for example:

  • They can have rounded or elongated shapes.
  • The peel is thick, smooth or rough. The range of colors is wide, they can be red, orange, white, beige, green, brown, among others.
  • They are usually large fruits that can reach up to 1 meter in length.
  • The pulp is orange and has different textures, it can be fibrous, fine or sandy.
  • The seeds are not unique because they can be white, beige, yellow, golden or brown.

Pumpkin cucurbita moschata 

The cucurbita moschata has different names such as auyama, ayote, zapallo, among others. This species of pumpkins are highly consumed in Latin America, it is used as a vegetable to prepare different dishes or the seeds are even consumed as nuts.

Plant description 

The cucurbita moschatat is also a creeping plant with hard, long stems and hairs that are not sharp to the touch. The leaves of this species are also rounded and don’t have very marked tips; they can measure about 21 cm wide, have white spots on their surface and, as well as the stem, have soft hairs that are not very rough.

The pendulum that supports the vegetables is also cylindrical, but unlike the species cucurbita máxima, the pendulum of cucurbita moschata has a hard consistency and its insertion in the vegetable expands and doesn’t stay on a single axis.

The vegetables of this species have a high variability in different factors such as:

  • Shape; they can be round, elongated or “goose neck” shaped.
  • They have various colors like white, green, green with white spots, white with green spots, beige, and orange, among others.
  • Its flesh is orange and can have a fine or sandy texture.
  • The seeds tend to have white and brown shades.

Pumpkin cucurbita ficifolia 

The cucurbita ficifolia receives different names such as chilacayote, cayote, alcayota, calabaza cidra, calabaza vitoria, among others. Unlike other species mentioned above, the variants of the ficifolia squash are mainly used for making sweets, although it is also consumed cooked and the seeds are eaten roasted.

Plant description 

The stem of the cucurbita ficifolia is hard and its leaves are heart-shaped, almost round. The flowers have yellow and orange tones with green lines. One thing that can be highlighted about this species is that it is the least cultivated and one with the least variants.

Some of the characteristics of the vegetables are:

  • It can have ovoid, round, elongated or “goose neck” shape.
  • Vegetables of this species have different colors, including yellow, green, green with white spots or lines, white, among others.
  • The pulp of the fruit is usually white and fibrous.
  • The seeds can measure between 15 to 25 mm, unlike the other species these in most cases are black, but can also be brown or white.

Pumpkin cucurbita pepo 

Vegetables of this species are commonly known as “summer squash” and are grown mainly in Europe and the United States. One of the most commonly known variants of this species is the Zucchini.

Plant description 

Unlike the other species, the stem and leaves of cucurbita pepo have prickly and rough hairs. The leaves can measure about 27 cm, and the edges are sharp and not rounded like the earlier species.

Now, the physical characteristics of the vegetables belonging to this species are:

  • They often have elongated or round shapes.
  • They have varied colors such as green, yellow, orange, among others.
  • The peel is smooth and hard, and the pulp has a fibrous texture.
  • The seeds are white or beige and measure between 8 to 24 mm long.
  • The pendulum that holds the vegetable is hard and doesn’t expand.

Pumpkin cucurbita argyrosperma 

The cucurbita argyrosperma is known as pipian in Mesoamerica. Commonly, the seeds of these types of squashes are used as nuts. A curious fact is that squashes of this species are not usually consumed when ripe because their quality is inferior compared to other species. On the contrary, when the seeds are extracted, they are usually fed to animals.

Plant description

This species plant leaves are triangular or heart-shaped, and can measure approximately 32 cm. The edge has many tips and small white spots.

To describe the fruit we can list the following characteristics:

  • The pendulum is short, hard and doesn’t expand.
  • The peel is smooth and usually white with green spots.
  • They have spherical or elongated shapes.
  • The most interesting characteristic of this species are the seeds. These can measure up to 40 mm long, usually the edge is darker with green or blue tones, and the center is lighter, ranging from white to brown tones.

What are the benefits of pumpkin? 

Nutritional profile of pumpkin 

In this section, we show you a nutritional table of 100 g of pumpkin extracted from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA, 2019).  With this nutritional profile, it can be said that pumpkin is a low-calorie vegetable that can be consumed in larger quantities compared to other carbohydrates such as rice or potato, but still continues to have a low amount of calories (Bioscience Research, 2019).

Nutritional information of Pumpkin 
Serving: 100 grams of raw pumpkin 
Water91,6 grams
Energy26 calories
Protein1 grams
Total lipids (fats)0,1 grams
Carbohydrates6,5 grams
Fiber0,5 grams
Sugars2,76 grams
Calcium21 miligrams
Iron0,8 grams
Magnesium12 miligrams
Phosphorus44 miligrams
Potassium340 miligrams
Sodium1 miligrams
Zinc0,32 miligrams
Copper0,127 miligrams
Selenium0,3 miligrams
Vitamin C9 miligrams
Tiamine0,05 miligrams
Riboflavin0,011 miligrams
Niacin0,06 miligrams
Vitamin B60,061 miligrams
Folate16 micrograms
Folic acid0 micrograms
Choline8,2 miligrams
Vitamin A426 micrograms
Carothene, beta3100 micrograms
Carothene, alfa4020 micrograms
Lutein + zeaxanthin1500 micrograms
Vitamin E (alfa-tocopherol)1,06 miligrams
Vitamin K (phylloquinone)1,1 microgram
Fatty acids, total satured Fatty Acids, total poliinsatured0,052 grams0,005
Tryptophan0,012 grams
Threonine0,029 grams
Isoleucione0,031 grams
Leucine0,046 grams
Lysine0,054 grams
Methionine0,011 grams
Cystine0,003 grams
Phenylalanine0,032 grams
Tyrosine0,042 grams
Valine0,035 grams
Arginine0,054 grams
Histidine0,016 grams
Alanine0,028 grams
Aspartic acid0,102 grams
Glutamic acid0,184 grams
Glycine0,027 grams
Proline0,026 grams
Serine0,044 grams

5 benefits of pumpkin that you need to know

The flesh or seeds of pumpkin are consumed in different parts of the world and you would be amazed at the incredible health benefits they have. Here you will get to know 5 benefits of pumpkin.

1. Pumpkin is an antioxidant

Our body cells become damaged when they oxidize and fail to function properly. This is due to the lack of antioxidants to counteract this oxidative stress, which can lead to chronic diseases such as cancer, diabetes, obesity, among others.

Pumpkin contains antioxidant components such as vitamin E, alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, cryptoxanthin, among others, which can fight free radicals that damage cells and thus avoid having negative consequences in our body. In fact, pumpkin seed oil is used by the Japanese in their daily diet for this purpose.

2. Pumpkins can strengthen your immune system 

Pumpkin has nutrients that can help protect your immune system; for example, it contains vitamin A, C and E as well as iron and folates.

Vitamin A is an important nutrient for our body because it protects and fights infections or bacteria in the body.

In addition, vitamin C is crucial because it fulfills numerous functions in the body, one of them is the production of white blood cells, allowing us to strengthen immune cells, heal and heal wounds more effectively, among others.

3. Pumpkins strengthen visual health 

Pumpkin has substances that are important for visual health: vitamin A, lutein and zeaxanthin.

As we well know, vision can reduce as we age, but you can avoid this threat by having a diet rich in components that protect the eyes, such as pumpkin. In fact, vitamin A deficiency is one of the causes of vision loss or blindness (Bioscience Research, 2019).

4. Pumpkins promote heart health 

Pumpkin is rich in nutrients such as potassium, fiber, vitamin C and antioxidants. According to Harvard Medical School (2019), high blood pressure is one of the main causes of strokes. This institution states that a diet rich in potassium can reduce blood pressure, the risk of strokes and the risk of having heart disease.

5. Pumpkins promote skin health 

Pumpkin has nutrients that can protect and promote skin health, for example, it contains carotenes such as beta-carotene that protect skin cells against the sun’s rays, acting as a natural sunscreen.

In addition, as mentioned, it contains vitamin C. This nutrient has roles in the body such as increasing the production of collagen, which is ideal to combat skin aging. It also has lutein, zeaxanthin and vitamin E, these nutrients make the skin look healthy and strong.

Where did pumpkin originate? 

Pumpkins are believed to have originated in the Americas because seeds related to this plant have been found dating from 7000 to 5000 B.C. in Mexico. They have been cultivated since approximately 3500 B.C.; this positions it as one of the oldest crops in the world, just like corn.

Native Americans used pumpkin as a staple in their diet, for example, they would cut strips from the pumpkin, place them in a fire and eat them. When the colonizers arrived, they could notice how the natives used this vegetable and began to create different recipes; they would cut off the top of the pumpkin, remove the seeds and fill it with milk, honey and other spices.

In addition, the seeds of the pumpkin were also highly appreciated because from that time it was considered a good food for health, which served for consumption or as a medicinal method.

In South America there is evidence of pumpkins between 1300 and 1500 A.D.. It is said that Christopher Columbus brought the seeds of this vegetable to Europe from the American continent; however, they didn’t become very popular in Northern Europe and the British Isles because the climatic conditions did not favor their growth. This is due to the fact that the pumpkin needs warm temperatures for its good development.

In Mediterranean countries such as Greece, pumpkin seeds became an important part of their cuisine and traditions.

Pumpkin industry in the world 

Top 10 pumpkin-producing countries in the world 

Pumpkin production takes place in different parts of the world, more than 23 million tons of this vegetable are produced worldwide. That’s why here we want you to know the 10 countries that produced the most pumpkins in 2019 and 2020, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).

PositionCountries 2019|Production in tons 2019Countries 2020Production in tons 2020
1 °China7.409.284China7.433.743
2 °India5.099.043India5.113.692
3 °Ukraine1.346.160Ukraine1.268.270
4 °Russia1.195.049Russia1.143.127
5 °United States of America1.043.373United States of America1.050.713
6 °Spain734.640Spain756.781
7 °Mexico679.145Mexico698.051
8 °Bangladesh634.951Bangladesh671.256
9 °Turkey590.414Turkey600.430
10 °Italy569.120Italy551.420

Through this table, one can see that almost all countries increased their production from the year 2019 to 2020, except Ukraine, Russia and Italy, who on the contrary had a reduction. Moreover, it can be noticed that almost all of them kept their position in the top 10, except Bangladesh, which was replaced by Turkey in the 8th place.

Top 10 pumpkin exporting countries in the world 

In this section, we’re going to analyze the exports of pumpkin in the world. The variability is quite high and is not concentrated in a single region of the world. First, let’s look at the 10 countries that exported the most pumpkin in tons in 2020.

PositionCountryExported amount in tons
1 °Mexico547.450
2 °Spain469.129
3 °New Zealand112.538
4 °Turkey75.714
5 °United States52.881
6 °Netherlands45.911
7 °Canada44.865
8 °Portugal43.295
9 °Morocco38.354
10 °France29.888

From the table above, we would highlight that Mexico, Spain, Turkey and the United States, apart from being among the 10 largest pumpkin-producing countries, are also in the top 10 countries that export the most pumpkin.

Now, this list varies when analyzing the value of exports calculated in U.S. dollars. Check for yourself.

PositionCountryExported amount in tons
1 °Mexico551.369
2 °Spain503.186
3 °United States66.788
4 °Netherlands63.619
5 °New Zealand52.521
6 °Turkey52.009
7 °Italy43.462
8 °France36.646
9 °Morocco32.566
10 °Portugal26.046

Top 10 pumpkin importing countries 

Below, you can see a list with the 10 countries that imported the most pumpkin in 2020.

  1. United States: 554,588
  2. France: 168,142
  3. Germany: 126,744
  4. United Kingdom: 96,505
  5. Japan: 91,410
  6. Netherlands: 83,362
  7. Canada: 60,036
  8. Russia: 44,020
  9. Spain: 37,850
  10.  Italy: 34,799

How is pumpkin cultivated?

The cultivation of pumpkins can spread on large-sized fields as these vegetables, depending on the species, can be extremely large. In this section we want you to learn about the main factors to keep in mind for the effective cultivation of pumpkins.


Pumpkin is a cold-sensitive vegetable, generally grown in warm-climate regions. The optimum temperature for an ideal development is between 25 to 30 °C, although it can withstand even higher temperatures, the maximum is 44 °C. If pumpkin crops reach 10 °C, the development of the vegetable will slow down.

In general, it can be said that the more luminosity the pumpkin crops have, the higher the production will be.


Pumpkins are usually not demanding in terms of soil for their optimal development, although ideally they should be grown in loamy-textured, deep and well-drained soils to facilitate the plant’s nourishment. The only thing to keep in mind in the soil is that it should have a large amount of organic matter to facilitate the growth of pumpkins.

Propagation of pumpkin 

Pumpkin is usually propagated by seed. It can be sown directly in the field, but high quality seeds should be used. It is generally not recommended to do this because the seeds can be lost to disease or pest problems. The best way is to plant the seeds in seedbeds and then transplant them in the harvest area.

Harvesting and post-harvesting of pumpkins 

The harvest time for pumpkins can vary according to the variety, climate, handling of the crop, among other factors, but can be approximately 100 to 120 days after planting.

Pumpkins can be kept in good condition for about 3 months at room temperature; if this period needs to be extended, they should be stored in cold rooms at 15 °C and 60% relative humidity.

Pumpkin uses and by-products 

Artisanal pumpkin products 

The best known and most artisanal use of pumpkins is for Halloween. You have probably seen it in movies and TV shows in the United States. See, at this time of the year they take pumpkins and carve scary faces to turn them into lamps and place them in houses as decorations.

This is a very old tradition that originated in England, Ireland and Scotland. They would carve faces that looked like demons and insert a candle inside, done as a representation and reminder of death, and also to scare people.

These vegetables are also consumed in different dishes that vary according to the region or country, but some of the dishes that are made with pumpkin are:

  • Cakes or pies
  • Soups or creams
  • Stuffed pumpkin
  • Roasted pumpkin
  • Pumpkin dumplings
  • Pumpkin burgers
  • Salads, etc.

Industrial pumpkin products 

Just as pumpkin has quite a few artisanal uses, companies market products made from this vegetable as well. Some of these products are

  • Pumpkin flour
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Pumpkin beer
  • Pumpkin confectionery products such as cookies, cakes, etc.
  • Pumpkin candies
  • Energy bars
  • Pumpkin seed oil, etc.

Pumpkin cosmetic products 

Pumpkin is not only a vegetable that delights many people’ palate, it is also a food that is being used in the cosmetic industry because of all the benefits it can have on the skin. Some of the pumpkin-based cosmetic products that are marketed are:

  • Lip scrub
  • Facial masks
  • Hand creams
  • Facial moisturizers
  • Body butters
  • Oils
  • Cleansing foams, etc.


As you may have noticed, pumpkin is not only the symbol of Halloween, it is also an essential food in the diet of many cultures. It is a vegetable with high variability both in its species and in its uses. We hope this article has helped you learn more about pumpkin and that you will include it more in your daily diet.