Tag Archives: pumpkin

How giant pumpkins got so big: A Q&A with Jessica Savage

Biologist Jessica Savage answers a few of our questions about her research on the physiology behind giant pumpkin size.

In October 2014, a giant pumpkin grown by Beni Meier of Switzerland tipped the scales at 1056 kilograms (2323 pounds) and set a new world record for the heaviest pumpkin ever weighed. Modern competitive pumpkin growers have been imposing very strong selection on pumpkin size for decades. Pumpkin fruit size keeps climbing, and old records are broken every year or two (Savage et al. 2015).

Beni Meier with his 2014 record-winning 2323-pound pumpkin, presumably a specimen of the Atlantic Giant variety of Cucurbita maxima. Photo from here.

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Cucurbita squash diversity

Jeanne introduces the diversity of some American natives, the squashes in the genus Cucurbita.

Spring is officially here, and I have squash on my mind.  We’ve ordered zucchini seeds for the upcoming summer garden but still have acorn squash from the fall sitting in the pantry (both are varieties of Cucurbita pepo). Our winter vegetable CSA box recently bequeathed to us the tastiest winter squash I’ve ever eaten, a Seminole pumpkin, which is a different variety of the same species (Cucurbita moschata) as the butternut squash sitting on the counter, destined for dinner.  Now between last year’s hard winter squashes and the tender summer squashes to come seems a good time to remind ourselves of the origins and diversity of squashes in the genus Cucurbita. Continue reading

A brief history of gluten

Victory with creating a gluten-free quick bread recipe inspires Jeanne to give you a brief primer on the evolutionary history of gluten within the grass family. 

We were perhaps a little too enthusiastic this fall in our apple picking at a local orchard and our acquisition of interesting squash at our farmer’s markets.  Our freezer now contains many bags of applesauce and squash puree.  We must now “do something,” as we say, with all of it, meaning use the purees as ingredients.  Lately I’ve been working on incorporating the purees into nutritious (low sugar, high protein, whole grain) quick breads.  On my doctor’s recommendation, that quick bread also needs to be gluten-free.  Increasing appearances of the phrase “gluten free” on restaurant menus and product labels are noble efforts to accommodate the needs of people who have celiac disease or other dietary sensitivities to gluten.  Baking without gluten is a challenge, as gluten is what gives wheat dough its elasticity and allows yeasted wheat bread to rise.  The internet makes gluten-free baking more accessible by the day, but I haven’t yet found someone else’s recipe that really does what I want, so I’ve been working on my own.  I’m fairly pleased with the latest result (below) and thought I would use the occasion to give you a brief evolutionary history of gluten and the botanical family that makes it:  the grasses. Continue reading