Pumpkin / Cucurbita moschata is a summer and rainy season vegetable crop and belongs to the Cucurbitaceae family. It is actually a fruit but can be considered as a vegetable as well in culinary purposes. The local names for pumpkin are Gummadi kaya, Poosanikai, Kumbalakai, Mathanga, Lal bhopla, Kaddu, Kashiphal, Dudde, Paarimal, Kumra, Petha, Mairen, Kollaano velo, etc.
Pumpkin is a sweet vegetable/fruit and is typically grown in the states of Orissa, UP, Karnataka, Kerala, Jharkhand, TN, J&K, Chattisgarh and so on. It is a rich source of potassium and Vitamin A. Its bright orange color is due to an antioxidant called Beta-carotene. The pumpkin crop is grown extensively during Kharif (monsoon) and summer season across India, for tender and immature fruits. Its fruits are consumed in cooked form and also used for the preparation of sweets. The fruit juice, flowers, young stem and leaves have many medicinal values.
India is the second largest producer of pumpkin in the world after China. Pumpkin, squash, and gourd are grown in India over an area of 0.36 million ha, which is highest in the world with the production of 3.50 million tons. The average productivity of pumpkin, squashes and gourds is about 9.72 t/ha in India. The demand for hybrid seed among farmers is increasing because of earliness, uniformity and higher yield which make pumpkin cultivation profitable. Several hybrids have been developed and released in the pumpkin by National Agricultural Research System.
Some popular varieties of pumpkin are Arka Chandan, Arka Surkamukhi, Suvarna, Sooraj, Ambili, Pusa Vishwas, Saras, Pusa Vikas and Pusa hybrid-1. Pumpkin is consumed for food by humans in many ways and forms across the country. Some such dishes made from pumpkin are pumpkin halwa, pumpkin sabzi, pumpkin kootu, poosanikai sambar, pumpkin pachadi, kaddu posto, pumpkin raita, roast pumpkin soup, pumpkin pie, erissery, bhoplya cha bharit, pumpkin gnocchi, konhra, etc. Pumpkin is closely related to the ash gourd or squash as well and that is also used similarly as a vegetable or to make sweets. The red variety pumpkin is more sweet and popular compared to its counterpart.
Pumpkins can be grown in different shapes and sizes. Pumpkin has a lot of health benefits and so do the seeds present inside it. The seeds can be peeled and eaten too and are considered good for health. Pumpkins are a great source of calcium and phosphorous. Pumpkins grow on the ground and are too heavy to climb up due to the weight of the vegetable. It is a large vine with large leaves and a huge pumpkin fruit. These vegetables have feeder roots near the soil surface. Pumpkin roots reach up to 1.6 m deep in the soil. Ensure you use good quality seeds while cultivating and the seeds itself are in scarcity so use well. Pumpkins can easily be grown in containers, pots, backyard, greenhouse or poly-house.
The three main types of pumpkins are carving, small, and giant pumpkin. The rests are the hybrid and improved varieties mentioned above.
Pumpkin varieties in India
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Process of growing Pumpkin
⦁ Time / Season / Climatic Conditions –
Pumpkins are warm season crops and grow well in the temperature of 18 – 27 °C. It adapts to a wide range of rainfall conditions and tolerates low temperatures as well. The crop is sensitive to frost.
Pumpkin is best grown in Jan–March, and Sept-Dec
⦁ Seed rate / Spacing –
Pumpkin is propagated by seeds. Pumpkins are usually planted in hills. Use good quality seeds and sowing can begin from the first showers in May – June for rain-fed crops. The normal seed rate is 1 – 1.5 kg/ha. 4 – 5 seeds are sown/pit.
Dig pits of 60 cm diameter and 30 cm – 45 cm depth and maintain a spacing of 4.5 m x 2 m.
⦁ Soil type / Land preparation / Irrigation –
Pumpkin thrives well in most soils, but the best suited is sandy loam soil with the good organic matter. The field should be leveled, well-drained, fertile, and with a soil pH range between 6 – 7. Test the soil before use as usual and ensure it meets the required standards.
Land to be used for hybrid seed production of pumpkin should be free of volunteer plants. The selected field should also have an assured irrigation. Land should be prepared by giving a few ploughings with a local tractor to get fine tilth stage. Apply FYM @ 20 – 25 tons/ha as basal dose along with 50% dose of 35 kg N and a full dose of 25 kg P2O5 and full dose K2O @ 25 kg/ha. The remaining N dose is applied in two split doses at the time of planting and at the time of full blooming. Pumpkin grows very fast and vines elongate rapidly within 2 weeks from planting. After that later stems come out. Pumpkins usually trail on the ground. For this purpose, you could spread dried twigs on the ground.
Irrigate immediately after sowing seeds. Initially, irrigation is done in (3 – 4)-day intervals. Thereafter, irrigation is carried out during flowering and fruiting stages. Pumpkins follow furrow irrigation method. In areas with limited water supply, you could carry out drip irrigation as well. Rainy seasons require drainage of excess water.
⦁ Weed Management / Pest control –
Raking the soil at the time of applying fertilizers and conducting 2 – 3 hand weedings keeps the land weed free. Earthing up is done during monsoons. The first weeding should be carried out 2 – 3 weeks after sowing. Herbicides can be used to control weeds. To control pests and diseases, crop rotation becomes essential.
Pumpkin flies can be controlled by baiting
Aphids are controlled by applying mercaptothion 15 – 30 kg
Thrips can be controlled by spraying endosulfan
Powdery mildew is controlled by applying copper oxychloride @ 10 – 30 kg
Downy mildew is controlled by spraying with bravo, cupravit or di-ethane
Anthracnose is controlled by spraying bravo or di-ethane every week
Cucumber wilt is controlled by applying dichlorophen as a pre-plant application @ 400 ml spray mix/10 liter container of soil
Fruit fly is controlled by spraying carbaryl 10% DP in pits before sowing seeds
Epilachna beetle is controlled by removing and destroying egg masses, grubs, and adults occurring on leaves and spraying carbaryl 0.2%
Mosaic is controlled by spraying dimethoate 0.05%. If the plants are already affected, uproot and destroy them
For further information, please contact your local horticulturist
⦁ Harvesting –
Pumpkins are ready for harvest when the stems connecting to the fruit begin to shrivel. Pumpkin yield depends on the cultivar. The maturity of the fruit is identified based on the color such as yellow or orange. Pumpkins can be harvested in the green or ripe state. Harvesting is done by hand usually. You can even cut the pumpkins from the vine with a knife. Snapping the stems reduces the storage life. Avoid cutting or bruising the pumpkins while harvesting. They need to be washed and cured for several days before selling to markets. Pumpkins stay for a few months at room temperature. The normal yield is 30 ton/ha.
⦁ Benefits of Pumpkin –
⦁ Pumpkin seeds are an excellent source of magnesium, zinc, fiber, and omega-3 fatty acids
⦁ Pumpkins aid weight loss
⦁ They are good for eyesight and heart health
⦁ They prevent many types of cancers
⦁ They are good for prostate health as well
⦁ Pumpkins boost immunity and protect from infections
⦁ They help control blood sugar levels and cholesterol levels
⦁ They aid in digestion and provide better sleep and mood
⦁ Pumpkin seed extract helps bladder function
⦁ They are a rich source of vitamin A and potassium
Nutritional value of Pumpkin (as per Wikipedia)
Total Fat 0.1 g 0%
Saturated fat 0.1 g 0%
Polyunsaturated fat 0 g
Monounsaturated fat 0 g
Cholesterol 0 mg 0%
Sodium 1 mg 0%
Potassium 340 mg 9%
Total Carbohydrate 7 g 2%
Dietary fiber 0.5 g 2%
Sugar 2.8 g
Protein 1 g 2%
Vitamin A 170% Vitamin C 15%
Calcium 2% Iron 4%
Vitamin D 0% Vitamin B-6 5%
Vitamin B-12 0% Magnesium 3%