Cucurbita maxima

Cucurbita maxima

Pumpkin, also known as yellow or sweet squash (Cucurbita maxima Duchesne, 1786) is an annual herbaceous species belonging to the Cucurbitaceae family.

Systematics –
From the systematic point of view it belongs to the Eukaryota Domain, Kingdom Plantae, Magnoliophyta Division, Magnoliopsida Class, Violales Order, Cucurbitaceae Family, Cucurbitoideae Subfamily and therefore to the Cucurbita Genus and to the C. maxima Species.

Etymology –
The generic term Cucurbita comes from the Latin name of the pumpkin and in turn from the Sanskrit there is curved, roundabout. The specific epithet maxima derives from the superlative of magnus, large: maximum, the largest, for the size of the fruit compared to those of the congeners.

Geographic Distribution and Habitat –
The Cucurbita maxima is a plant native to the hot countries and therefore demanding in terms of temperature. There are several species cultivated. They are distinguished by some botanical characteristics, including the shape and thickness of the fruit and the seed.

Description –
The yellow or sweet pumpkin is characterized by the following botanical characteristics: it has a climbing stem, heart-shaped and lobed leaves; the flowers are large yellow with 5 petals; the fruits are generally round large, with a smooth or rough surface, with colors varying from gray to yellow or orange; the fruit pulp is yellow or orange.

Cultivation –
Cucurbita maxima is a plant typically cultivated in open field. Sowing takes place between April and May, with agronomic works and techniques that include: weeding, trimming and summer irrigation. The harvest is carried out in the autumn and the pumpkins are preserved for a long time during the winter. For the cultivation technique, the following sheet can be consulted.

Uses and Traditions –
The origins of pumpkin cultivation are lost in the mists of time and are therefore very far and uncertain; who believes, for example, that the genus “lagenaria” (cylindrical shape up to two meters long), is the first one arrived in Europe from India. Perhaps it was the Etruscans who cultivated them, or even before, the Phoenician navigators when they landed at the mouths of the Italic rivers. Both Discoride and Pliny called the pumpkin “the coolness of human life, the balm of trouble”. The poet Martial (40 -104 AD), leaves us a funny epigram on an host who used only pumpkins to process all sorts of food:
“… .the Cecilio pumpkins
cut into a thousand pieces.
You eat them in the appetizer
give it to you in the soup
you need them for food
he puts them in the outline “.
The turkish pumpkins (genus “cucurbita”, the best and most widespread), were instead introduced into Europe in the sixteenth century. with the discovery of America. In the peasant tradition it was customary to keep a pumpkin at home as an ornament, as a sign of happiness and abundance. Even today this plant is cultivated for its fruits, with very different characteristics depending on the species. The pulp, compact and sugary has laxative, diuretic and refreshing properties and is used in the kitchen as a dish, as an ingredient in soups, risottos, dishes and jams, or as a filling of pastes.
The most common Italian pumpkin varieties are: Marina di Chioggia, with orange pulp; Gray of Bologna, used for jams; Mammouth, with yellow flesh.
Despite its sugary taste it does not have a high calorie content; it is rich in vitamins and antioxidants. Its yellow-orange flesh, firm but tender, has excellent culinary qualities.

Preparation Mode –
Pumpkin is a vegetable that lends itself to many recipes, from appetizers to desserts, savories or desserts.
In the kitchen the Mantovana and Marina di Chioggia varieties are preferred for their excellent quality, fine and suitable for velvety, stuffed and risotto, the Piacenza, compact and tasty, and the excellent Butternut Rugosa with a vaguely nutty taste. When buying, make sure that the pumpkin is fully ripe, optimal condition of use.
the pumpkin can be cooked in the oven or sieved to make a sauce to season a very good first course, such as pumpkin risotto with sweet gorgonzola sauce. You can cook steamed pieces, ready as a base for the dough of your pumpkin gnocchi. Cut into cubes, to brown it in a pan to finish some scallops of pork with pears and pumpkin.
The whole pumpkin is kept for up to 2-3 months. If it is cut into pieces, it is kept in the fridge and must be consumed within 2-3 days. If you want to stock up before the end of the pumpkin season, to preserve it for a long time, you can cook the pulp (baked, microwaved or steamed), frullala and freeze it in trays.
Among the many ways to prepare the pumpkin and keep it, let’s remember the zuccata.
The zuccata or cucuzzata, is a typical ingredient of Sicilian pastry. It was derived from a particular type of pumpkin in the shape of a trumpet, the “virmiciddara”, and it was famous that prepared by the nuns of the Badia del Cancelliere of Palermo. In our days it is obtained from the yellow pumpkin and the peel of watermelons. The original method to obtain the shot required more than a week.

Guido Bissanti

Sources
– Acta Plantarum – Flora of the Italian Regions.
– Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
– Treben M., 2000. Health from the Pharmacy of the Lord, Advice and experience with medicinal herbs, Ennsthaler Publisher
– Pignatti S., 1982. Flora of Italy, Edagricole, Bologna.
– Conti F., Abbate G., Alessandrini A., Blasi C. (edited by), 2005. An annotated checklist of the Italian vascular flora, Palombi Editore.

Warning: Pharmaceutical applications and alimurgical uses are indicated for informational purposes only and do not in any way represent a medical prescription; there is therefore no liability for their use for curative, aesthetic or food purposes.




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