UW News

October 28, 2021

Video: UW Farm’s Perry Acworth talks about pumpkins large and small

UW News

Pumpkins are part of a large and varied family. The cucurbitaceae family includes melons, cucumbers and squash as well as the orange pumpkin that we’re accustomed to seeing around Halloween.

Perry Acworth, UW Farm manager, talks in this video about the different varieties of winter squash — from the palm-sized pie pumpkin to Cucurbita maxima, which can produce giant pumpkins.

Perry Acworth, UW Farm manager

Perry Acworth, UW Farm managerKiyomi Taguchi / University of Washington

In addition to ample water, sun, good soil and genetics, farmers encourage the growth of giant pumpkins by removing most of the pumpkins on a vine and allowing the plant to focus its energy on just a few fruit. A pumpkin blossom also needs to be visited an average of 10 times by a pollinator to form a fruit. For that reason, UW Farm plants sunflowers among its pumpkin rows to attract bees.

Acworth said that most pumpkins are edible, though the smallest varieties are usually the tastiest. Pumpkins also make great feed for livestock, and the seeds can even have medicinal qualities for humans.

“In other parts of the world, ground pumpkin seeds are used as a natural parasitic,” she explained.

Acworth recommends roasting pumpkin seeds for an autumnal snack — that is, if you aren’t saving them to grow your own pumpkins next year. She thinks cucurbitaceae are among the easiest plant family to grow and encourages people to try growing pumpkin, squash or zucchini at home.