The Science Behind Halloween Pumpkins (And Many Other Pumpkins) – FayerWayer

Pumpkins are one of the symbols that are related to Halloween: a celebration linked to the Christian tradition of All Saints, which is celebrated on November 1.

Precisely the word Halloween, is a contraction of the phrase “Hallowe’en”, which means “All Saints’ Eve”, since Halloween is celebrated precisely on October 31st.

Although this holiday is common in English-speaking countries, it has spread more and more around the world. And if there is something we relate to Halloween, it is pumpkins. Especially the orange ones, carved to make them scary or funny faces.

That there are a lot of pumpkins on Halloween is no coincidence, and that there is a lot of science behind it.

Fall pumpkins

There is not a single type of pumpkin but many varieties: the most common in America, especially in Central and North America are the subspecies of the Cucurbita pepo.

And not only are there many varieties of these fruits of the cucurbit family, but they also receive many names, depending on their shape, color and also where they are named.

Squash, zucchini, Italian squash, squash, pipianes, squash: are some of the names given to pumpkin varieties in different countries of America.

But regardless of their differences, all of them, even the orange pumpkins, type “pumpkin”, which are the ones we most associate with Halloween.

Pumpkin plants are native to America and it is considered that they may be one of the first domesticated plants, since there are records of its cultivation for about 10 thousand years in Mesoamerica.

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Like many other native species of the region, once the Europeans got to know the American continent, they began to be cultivated in many parts of the world.

Although they are currently grown practically all year round, their best harvest time was from late summer to late fall.

And as the origin of the celebration of Halloween or All Saints’ Eve, it also has a lot to do with the harvest season, so it is not uncommon for pumpkins to have been included in this celebration.

Its color has a lot of chemistry

Something that characterizes Halloween pumpkins is their orange color and that is due to chemistry, specifically carotenes.

These substances are very large organic molecules, beta-carotene specifically has an orange color: that same substance is present in carrots. There are also other types of carotenes such as lutein that gives the white of eggs their yellow color, or zeaxanthin, also yellow, present in corn.

Also the taste and smell of pumpkins is due to chemical substances, whose particular combination gives them those characteristics.

Pumpkins owe their “vegetable” aroma to the presence of 3-hexenol, and the “amorphous” aroma that some species have is because they contain a compound called diacetyl, which has precisely that aroma.

These scents and flavors mix very well with others from other plants, especially those of cinnamon, which contains cinnamaldehyde that give rise to the flavor of “spiced pumpkin” or pumpkin spice, which is also emblematic of this season.

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So whether you’re celebrating Halloween or not, now you know a few more things about one of its most notable symbols: pumpkins.

Myrtle Frost

"Reader. Evil problem solver. Typical analyst. Unapologetic internet ninja."

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