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Dimensions of a giant berry

In the world of vegetables, pumpkins hold a lot of records. Depending on type and culture, these giant fruits can reach over a metre in diameter, three metres in circumference and up 150 kilograms in weight. In rare cases weights of over 500 kilograms have been recorded. "That makes them the largest berries in the world", says Harald Seitz, nutritionist at aid infodienst in Bonn. Why are pumpkins berries? It's because fruits with numerous seeds embedded in the fruit pulp are commonly defined as berry fruits.

History and cultivation

Pumpkins are one of the oldest cultivated plants in the world, says Seitz. "In the past they were valued primarily for their easy-to-store, oil- and protein-rich seeds". The flesh of the original wild pumpkins tasted bitter and rotted very quickly. Pumpkins are thought to have originated in the Americas, from where they were introduced to Europe. Because they need warm growing conditions, pumpkins are today grown predominantly in Russia, the Ukraine and Italy. More and more pumpkins, in a variety of shapes and colours, are also being grown in Germany and the UK.

Taxonomy and special features

The cucurbit family (Cucurbitaceae) is very large, comprising about 100 genera. Apart from the pumpkin (Cucurbita spec. ) it also contains the cucumber (Cucumis sativus), melon (Cucumis melo) and watermelon (Citrullus vulgaris). The courgette (Cucurbita pepo subsp. pepo convar. giromontiina) is a form of vegetable pumpkin without tendrils. From a botanist’s point of view cucurbits have some special features. For instance, pumpkins produce female and male flowers on one and the same plant. They are pollinated mainly by bumblebees. Pumpkins have some leaves which have been transformed into tendrils. The vines can grow as long as 15 metres during the growing period of six months so that pumpkins can trail over other plants or fences.

 

Source: Heike Kreutz, www.aid.de