It is important to know the botany of the maximum Cucurbita species to understand the differences and procedures for obtaining its by-products. Botany gives very important information from the macroscopic level, structure and function of a vegetable. Thus, the plant will be described to understand its main by-product, the seeds.
Cucurbita maximum is a yearly herbaceous diclinomonoecious plant. The plant has a radial system that reaches 1.8 m, but most of it is in the first 60 cm. The stems are rough, often angular, with a tendency to produce roots in the knots. There are creeping stems with guides between 10 and 30 m long, have semierect stems (trunk varieties) with short internodes. The leaves of the Cucurbita maxima are large, suborbicular, frequently lobed rounded and single-layered18.
The flowers are yellow, commonly solitary, and occasionally the masculine ones are in bunches. The male flowers have long peduncles, three stamens, free filaments, linear anthers, connivent, one of them being monotherapy. The female flowers are short pedunculate, with an inferior, oblong or unipolar ovary, with 3-6 pluriovulated placentas, shirt styled and 3-5 lobed stigma. During pollination (of entomophily form), the stigma remains open and with receptive stigma for 12 hours18.
The fruit is a berry (unilocular with many seeds), indehiscent, of various sizes and colorations. It has an inner cavity where fibres and seeds are located18.
The seeds are large, flat, oval-shaped and end in a tip. They have an approximate weight between 50 and 250 mg as well as small and big fruits. The large size provides an excellent reserve that favours the germination and establishment of the seeds18.
Mature seeds do not contain functional endosperms. The embryo fills the seed coat, and the reserves (in lipids, in small spherical bodies called spherosomes, and proteins in protein organelles) are stored in the cotyledons18. The optimum temperature for germination ranges from 25 to 30 °C, and it is inhaled below 15 °C18.
Chemical composition of pumpkin seeds
The moisture content can vary by variety and region concerning pumpkin seeds (Cucurbita maxima). The seeds var. Béjaoui showed a moisture content of 8.46%19, while slightly low values between 3.08 and 5.40% were showed for seeds collected from Akure, Ondo State in Nigeria and the province of Didymotikhon Evros, Greece, respectively20,21. Cucurbita maxima seeds present nutritional composition mainly characterized by a high concentration of fatty acids and proteins11. Cucurbita maxima seeds present nutritional composition mainly characterized by a high concentration of fatty acids and proteins11. Table 2 shows the nutritional composition reported in different articles on Cucurbita maxima seed20,21,22. Based on this evidence, seeds have a high nutritional value, provide good quality oil and tocopherols and have a good vegetable cover27.
Pumpkin and diabetes
The truth is that some preliminary research determines that pumpkins could have favourable effects for people with diabetes. More specifically, in a study carried out on rats and published in 2009 in the journal “Science, Biotechnology and Biochemistry,” it was discovered that pumpkin contains trigonelline and nicotinic acid, two substances that could promote insulin resistance and delay the advance of diabetes.
On the other hand, a study published in the “Journal of Medicinal Food” found that pumpkin can help maintain a lower blood sugar level since this vegetable contains some types of polyphenols with high antioxidant capacity.
Its moderate glycemic index makes it a good choice for people with diabetes. Of course, we remember that it is best to consult with our doctor or specialist before any modification or incorporation into our diet.
Since I have the pleasure of meeting Mirian, I associate her directly with pumpkin; I don’t know anyone else a fan of this fruit; she loves to eat it in soups and makes hundreds of sweet and savoury recipes that involve pumpkin, but What Mirian likes most about this fruit are the benefits it brings to her body.
Benefits that many people are unaware of and take pumpkin simply as one more ingredient, without considering that it is loaded with multiple useful properties to strengthen health.
Nutritional properties of pumpkin
The benefits granted by pumpkin are due to its multiple nutritional properties:
Its dark orange colour classifies it as an excellent source of carotenoids, including beta-carotene (which are converted into vitamin A in the body). One cup of pumpkin contains more than 200% of the recommended daily value of vitamin A, good for vision and much more. It also has very relevant values of vitamin B, C, D, E and K. La praise is very low in calories (it provides approximately 40 calories per 100 grams) and high in water, which, together with potassium, is perfect for counteracting or prevent fluid retention. Rich in fibre, with three grams in a one-cup serving. It also contains minerals such as calcium and phosphorus.
Health benefits of pumpkin
The different properties of pumpkin make it an excellent natural alternative to treat various health problems and strengthen the proper functioning of the body.
Strengthens and improves eyesight
The consumption of vitamin A is very important to preserve vision, and pumpkin is one of the foods richest in beta-carotene, which is converted by the body into vitamin A; that is why eating pumpkin daily provides greater protection to the eyes and increases the eye’s ability to see in dim light.
Improves immune function
Pumpkin is a clear natural alternative to raise the defences and avoid some conditions; this is due to beta-carotene, which as an antioxidant helps protect the body from free radicals that cause diseases while improving immune function.
Protects the skin
The action of beta-carotene allows neutralizing the action of free radicals protecting the skin from the sun’s harmful rays, preventing the appearance of wrinkles, spots, and even cancer.
Improves the digestive system
Pumpkin is largely recognized for its high content of soluble fibre, which contributes to better digestion, helps reduce the risk of hemorrhoids, and is often helpful in getting relief from irritable bowel syndrome.
Helps to lose weight
The richness of fibre contained in the pumpkin makes it an ideal food for slimming diets.
The key to this is that fibre is a substance that adds bulk to your diet, making you feel satisfied quickly; our bodies cannot break down fibre; fibre is excreted from the body almost from the body. Same way in which it was ingested, with the difference that the fibre adheres to the fact that you have consumed to cross the colon and be eliminated.