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Is it a Pumpkin or a Squash?

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Here is a fun bit of fall trivia. Learn these little facts and impress your friends while out on Halloween or sitting around the Thanksgiving table. You can really show them what a Garden Geek you really are!!

How do you tell the difference between a pumpkin and a squash?

The answer: It is all in the stem!!

Pumpkins are from the Genus Cucurbita. This Genus has a few species that can be hard to distinguish from each other. Here is how you can tell...

A true pumpkin can be seen in the stem. "Real" pumpkins are the species pepo. Their stems are hard and woody with very prominent ridges in them. The stems also enlarge at the top of the fruit. The fruit is usually orange and hard. Careful though-because this species does include some squash and zucchini as well!

Next we have the species maxima. They can also produce pumpkin like fruit but the stems are more corky and without ridges or the enlargement at the fruit. The fruit is usually more yellow to green than orange. They usually don't have the "handles" that we like to use for our Jack-o-lanterns! Some of the fruit selling as large cultivar pumpkins are actually in this squash/pumpkin mix species. 'Big Max' cultivar is sold as a plant that produces pumpkins over 100 pounds, but don't be fooled!

Then there is moschata species. These usually have long fruit and a tannish colored skin but they too have ridges in their stem and enlargement at their fruit. Plants in this species include Cushaw Pumpkin and Winter Squash. Pumkins get the last laugh though. It is this species that is often sold in the supermarket as canned pumpkin! Go figure!

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