The Pumpkin, Taste and Food Security

Cucurbita maxima, a plant that is popularly known as Pumpkin, Auyama or Zapallo, is of utmost importance for the food security and food sovereignty of any country, especially in regions with a tropical climate, since it is possible to grow it all year round. The Pumpkin can be produced successfully in different types of soil, from sandy soils with little organic matter, to heavy and clayey soils. It resists the warm climate being the optimal temperature for its cultivation between 25 ° C and 30 ° C, however it can be cultivated in lower temperatures and also produce fruits of good size and quality.

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Pumpkin with good seeds for Sowing. Renacimiento de La Botala P.U. Mamporal, Miranda State.

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Seeds in container with water for selection. Renacimiento de La Botala P.U. Mamporal, Miranda State.

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Association of plantain and pumpkin crops. La Guapa Sector, Miranda State, Venezuela.

Pumpkin fruit ready for harvest. Renacimiento de La Botala P.U. Mamporal, Miranda State, Venezuela.

Pumpkins stored under roof. Los Galpones Sector, Miranda State.

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Approach the seeds of the pumpkin and the pulp that surrounds them. 

Renacimiento de La Botala P.U. Mamporal, Miranda State.

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Sowing of  seeds without selected in furrow. Paparo, Páez Municipality, Miranda State.

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Weed control with machinery; tractor coupled to a rotary. Los Galpones Sector, Miranda State.

Its roots do not penetrate the soil in great depth so it can be associated with other crops such as lemon, orange, papaya, plantain and banana without affecting the development of these plants, it is also worth mentioning that the auyama is a culture of short cycle and rapid production, because in a period of approximately 3 months after sowing, the fruit will be ready for harvest.

 

Despite its enormous fruit, the plant does not demand large amounts of nutrients from the soil, so it does not become a prevailing need in this crop for the use of chemical fertilizers, however it is advisable to at least enrich the soil with material organic so that there is always as much nutrients as possible. In terms of human nutrition we can say that the pumpkin is a food that should not be missing from the table of any human being, it is an excellent ingredient for a balanced diet because it contains minerals as important as calcium, iron, phosphorus and vitamins as the A, B1, B2, B3 and B6. Equally the pumpkin for every 100 g. The edible portion of the fruit contains 1.5 g. of proteins.

 

Another reason why it should be given great importance to the planting of pumpkin from the point of view of food security and food sovereignty of a country, is the fact that it is a very economic item compared to the other items that are offered in the market, because the facilities offered by the plant for its cultivation allow to reduce the expenses in its production, and its fruit become a possibility of more economic feeding for people.

 

 

 

 

 

In "Sembrando un País" we are committed to the development of the fields, the balanced feeding of the people and the sovereignty of the same in terms of food production, therefore we will offer in this article different production techniques to obtain excellent results in this crop , and likewise we will continue mentioning the advantages for food security and sovereignty that this item offers in each step of the production process:

Step 1. Selection of Seeds:

To do this, select a fruit that is well formed and has no deficiency or disease (such as fungi, rot or worms), extract the seeds of that fruit and remove them from the pulp where they are wrapped, then put them in a container with Water. In this container they can be left to soaking for up to 1 day with the intention of discarding the floating seeds and keeping only those that have sunk. This method is popularly used in Venezuelan fields to select the pumpkin seed, since it is said that the seed that floats does not have the necessary conditions to germinate or to produce healthy plants.

 

It is also worth noting that if this method is used, all the seeds that were selected should be planted immediately, since once they have come in contact with the water, the seeds will begin their germination process, which once started is unstoppable, so if dry and store the seeds after they were hydrated, they will rot after a few days. If you want to extract the seeds of a fruit to store what you should do is dry them after extracting them from the pulp where they come wrapped, without introducing them in the container with water or moisten them in any way.

 

We can also extract the seeds of the fruit without removing them from the pulp or drying them, in these conditions we can store them in a bag or container for a maximum of 5 days. If we do not wish to use the aforementioned selection method, we can obviate it and go directly from the extraction of the seeds of the fruit to the sowing using the total of the obtained seeds.

 

Although there are several companies that produce and market pumpkin seeds, it is not necessary to buy them because the same fruits that we harvest in our plantation can provide us with the seeds for the next planting without any risk of this deteriorating the genetic quality of the plants nor the conditions of the fruit that will produce, being able to obtain the seeds for the next sowing of each harvest that we obtain.

If we are starting to plant squash and we do not have seeds to plant our first plantation, we can obtain them from a pumpkin that we buy in the market, we only have to make sure of the excellent health of the fruit we are acquiring. Once we harvest the fruits of the plants that we generate with these seeds, we can continue extracting the seeds of these fruits for the next planting.

 

This is another reason why pumpkin is a fundamental item for the food security and food sovereignty of any country, since it does not need seeds produced commercially by a company, which can become a limitation for the production of if for some reason the producers can not acquire them, either because they are not available in the market or because of the high economic cost of the same. As commercial seeds are not required, the production costs of the item are lower, if the production costs are lower, the price that people who acquire the fruit in the market will finally pay is lower.

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Cleaning of family land with brushcutter. La Guapa Sector, Miranda State.

Step 2. Sowing:

As we mentioned before, squash is not a demanding crop in terms of soil type, we can plant it even in nutrient-deficient soils where demanding crops such as corn, tomato or paprika could not thrive. This does not mean that we can sow the squash in highly acid soils (with a pH of 2 for example) or in beach sand, but it does mean that we can produce this crop in a great variety of arable soils, where even other more demanding crops do not could be produced successfully. The relief is not an impediment to produce pumpkin because the plant can grow and fruit without problems in flat or sloping.

 

Seeding the seeds is very simple, no seedling is required, simply weed is removed in the area where it is to be planted, this can be done with machete or husk depending on the weeds that exist in the area, once the surface to be planted small holes are opened in the earth, which can be done with objects as simple as a stick or the tip of the machete since we only need to introduce the seeds and cover them with a small layer of earth. The recommended planting frame is 3 meters by 3 meters between one plant and another, in each hole it is recommended to place up to 3 seeds.

 

However, you can also place several seeds in a furrow or in different holes, without taking a specific planting distance and in the same way obtain a good result in terms of fruit production. In case you want to work with machinery to perform tasks such as weed control, it is advisable to use a planting frame of 5 meters by 5 meters between one plant and another.

 

After sowing if we have an irrigation system we can activate it with the intention of moistening the soil a bit and encouraging the seeds to germinate, we can also plant before it rains so that the seeds receive their first hydration taking advantage of this natural resource .

 

Step 3. Cultural Work in the Crop:

After sowing it is recommended to make the first weed control between 17 and 20 days, so that we avoid that the other plants that grow in the area where we have the crop compete for water, nutrients and sunlight with our plants. We may have to carry out the first weed control before the time indicated, that will depend on the type of weeds that exist in the place where we are cultivating. After the first control of weeds it is convenient to supervise the planting and repeat this work when we observe a very abundant proliferation of weeds, and when they exceed in size to our pumpkin plants.

 

Once the pumpkin plant has grown to obtain the maximum size of its development and has spread on the ground, it is not necessary to carry out more weed controls because the plant begins to grow over them, and also its large leaves they make it difficult for them to obtain sunlight, which delays their growth. It is also not advisable to carry out weed controls at this stage of the crop, since the weeds become entangled in the stems of the pumpkin and eliminating them from the ground, we run the risk of damaging our crop.

 

With respect to pests, squash is again offered as a sustainable item for food security and food sovereignty, since the pests that usually attack this crop are leaf-eating worms and the damages produced by them do not affect the health of the plants at a serious level, that is, they continue to vegetate and can also produce the great and tasty fruits that characterize them. This means less production costs as there is no need to spend on agrochemicals and, at the same time, a healthier agricultural product for human consumption.

 

If we grow pumpkin in the rainy season, which in Venezuela we call Winter, or in the North-summer cycle (period with less abundant rains than winter) we do not need irrigation system, since the plant can stand several days without receiving water and can wait for it to rain. Of course if 5 days pass without raining and the soil is not moistened, we must water our plants either with an irrigation system or we have to do it with hose, watering can or containers with water so as not to lose the crop.

 

With regard to fertilizers we had previously mentioned that it is not a prevailing need to incorporate chemical fertilizers into the soil, and that even squash can grow in soils with little organic matter. During and after the cultivation it is advisable to apply organic matter to the soil with the intention of maintaining the concentration of nutrients in it.

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Boom seedlings with a few days of germination. Paparo, Páez Municipality, Miranda State.

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Pumpkin Plants planted without having used a specific planting frame. Renacimiento de La Botala P.U. Mamporal, Miranda State.

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Pumpkin plants sown with a frame of 5 meters by 5 meters. Los Galpones Sector, Miranda State.

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Agricultural producer José Sándia carrying out weed control with machete. Los Galpones Sector, Miranda State.

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Large and extensive pumpkin plant growing on corocillo plants, at this stage of cultivation it is not convenient to perform weed control. Paparo, Páez Municipality, Miranda State.

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Worm feeding on pumpkin leaf. Los Galpones Sector, Miranda State.

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Pumpkin plant in moist soil, in this condition you do not need to moisturize the soil. Los Galpones Sector, Miranda State.

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Pumpkin plant in dry soil, in this condition it is advisable to moisturize the soil. Renacimiento de La Botala P.U. Mamporal, Miranda State.

This organic matter can be remnants of prunings or remains of weeds as crushed as possible, and can also be incorporated worm humus, compost and also dung of livestock or horses in limited quantities and never close to the stems of the plant , because the fermentation of these materials can generate a very high degree of acidity that can harm the crop. If you want to incorporate large amounts of livestock or horse excrement, it is recommended to do it after the harvest when there are no productive plants left on the land that could be affected. 

Step 4. Flowering:

After 60 days of cultivation, the flowering process begins, at this stage weed control should not be carried out to avoid damaging the plants or causing losses in the flowers. It should be noted that in the case of the pumpkin there is the Male Flower and the Female Flower, that is to say that the male and female organs of the flower are found in two different types of flowers, and not in the same flower as in the case of the lemon for example.

 

The material of the Male Flower must be combined with the material of the Female Flower so that the fruit can be produced, that is to say that the Male Flower must pollinate the Female Flower and most of this arduous work is is made by pollinating insects such as bees. Likewise, pollen can travel from a male flower to a female flower by the action of the wind, but for the most part pollination occurs thanks to pollinating insects. 

 

It should be noted that in different regions there are people who appreciate gastronomically the male flower of the pumpkin and use it in culinary preparations, this is not recommended if we grow the pumpkin plant with the intention of producing its fruits, since if we remove the male flowers from the plants before the pollination has been carried out, the Female Flowers will not produce fruits.

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Male Flower of the pumpkin. Paparo, Páez Municipality, Miranda State.

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Female Flower of the pumpkin. Paparo, Páez Municipality, Miranda State.

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Female Flower correctly pollinated with fruit in formation. Paparo, Páez Municipality, Miranda State.

Step 5. Harvest:

After 90 days the fruit should be ready to be harvested, however after the formation of the fruit begins and when they already begin to acquire a prominent size within the plantation, it is recommended to monitor their development to harvest them at their point, that is to say when the maturation of the same ones is beginning. We can harvest from the moment when the fruit of the pumpkin begins to change to the orange color until the moment in which the fruit is totally orange, that is to say at its maximum point of maturation. From this moment the fruit begins to rot and will no longer be suitable for human consumption, so it is advisable to harvest when the fruit begins to change from green to orange.

 

It is not recommended that the fruits remain in the field until reaching the maximum point of maturity, because then there is a shorter period of time to carry out the harvest, commercialization and transfer of the fruits to the market where they will be offered to the final consumer. If it is being cultivated with unique views to self-consumption, it is not advisable to leave the fruits in the field until its maximum ripeness, since all the fruits will be harvested near the time of the decomposition of the same.

 

To carry out the harvest, no tool is needed, since the fruit of the plant can be separated using only the hands, and we can also use a machete, scissors or a knife. The only thing that we must take into account when harvesting is to keep a piece of the stem of the plant and not remove it from the fruit, because in this way it will last longer before decomposing.

 

In case of heavy rains that may cause waterlogging in the plantation, it is recommended to harvest all the fruits that are at their point of harvest at one time and not leave them in the field, because we run the risk of rotting or being seriously affected by fungi.

 

After finishing the harvesting process, the cycle in the field starts again, we can extract the seeds of the fruits we harvest and use them to plant again. As we have seen the pumpkin is a very easy item to grow, and due to the very low incidence of pests it presents, it can be done agroecologically, for both reasons this crop is perfect for family gardens and urban agriculture, and it is also a crop ideal to start in agricultural production.

 

To conclude this article we want to recapitulate all the reasons why this item should be taken into account for the food security and food sovereignty of any country:

 

 

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Pumpkin fruit of good size, is not yet ready for harvest because it has not started ripening. Paparo, Páez Municipality, Miranda State.

Fruit with maturation started, it can be harvested or left in the field until it ripens a little more. Renacimiento de La Botala P.U. Mamporal, Miranda State.

Fruit with medium maturation, good point for harvest. Renacimiento de La Botala P.U. Mamporal, Miranda State.

Fruit with advanced maturation, it is convenient to carry out the harvest and not leave it longer in the field. Renacimiento de La Botala P.U. Mamporal, Miranda State.

Fruit Harvest with pruning scissors. Paparo, Miranda State.

Fruit harvested with pruning shears, note that part of the stem of the plant has been preserved. Paparo, Páez Municipality, Miranda State.

Economic Reasons: The seed can be extracted from the same fruit that is harvested indefinitely, without affecting the quality of future fruit. Agrochemicals are not necessary because plagues that can severely damage the crop are not usually present, the use of chemical fertilizers is not essential, a large number of people are not needed to maintain a plantation.

 

Climatic, Geographical and Agricultural Reasons: It can be easily cultivated in different regions with different types of climate, it can be cultivated on a slope, it does not require water constantly, it accepts different types of soil, it does not demand a high amount of nutrients from the soil, It is a short cycle crop.

 

Reasons for Transportation and Distribution: Its fruit is very rustic, it can be transported piled up in trucks while it is not at its maximum ripeness point. If the harvest is made at the beginning of maturation and part of the peduncle of the plant adhered to the fruit is conserved, it can last several weeks without the need for refrigeration before decomposition.

 

Therefore the pumpkin is an economic item, important in the balanced diet and that offers many facilities to achieve its production successfully without incurring large expenses by the producer. In Sowing a Country we call on all those people and institutions that are related to agri-food, to continue the production of the pumpkin, to introduce this crop (even in small areas) in places where it has not yet been produced, and to always take it account as an essential item for food security and food sovereignty.

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