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Oxford Companion to Food

Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

  • About

pumpkin a large vegetable fruit, typically orange in colour, round, and ribbed, borne by varieties of the plant Cucurbita pepo, one of four major species in the genus Cucurbita; see cucurbit.

The name is thought to derive from an old French word pompon, which in turn came from the classical Greek pepon, a name also applied to the melon.

Fruits of the species C. pepo and its hybrids may have other common names, such as squash (with various epithets); but it is within this species and its hybrids that we find the varieties known as Spirit, Trick-or-Treat, and Connecticut Field, which are among the traditional Hallowe’en pumpkins, and the others which have the distinctive shape and coloration which are particularly associated with the name pumpkin. However, the name ‘pumpkin’ is not a precisely defined one and it may be applied to certain varieties of related species, especially when they happen to resemble the true (Hallowe’en-type) pumpkins. Thus fruits of Cucurbita maxima, winter squash, may be called pumpkins.