Pumpkin is a large trailing plant with yellow and bell-shaped flowers. The origins of the pumpkin can be traced to the southern regions of North America and the northern regions of South America that is central Mexico, Columbia and Yangtze valley in China. Growing of pumpkin has become popular of recent among farmers in many parts of Africa continent. Pumpkin plants are mainly grown on small scales by the households for domestic consumption.
Volumes of pumpkin produced in Africa
Africa as a whole produces 0.2 million tonnes whereChina is the highest producer of pumpkin producing 6.3 million tonnes annually followed by India with 3.5 million and USA third with 0.8 million tonnes.
Varieties of Pumpkin
There are various varieties of pumpkins grown in Africa and the most known include; Sweet Cream, Onziga, Dulu, Bala, Sunfish, Sugar Pie, Anderina acorn, buttercup, butternut squash.
Pumpkin producing countries in Africa
Pumpkin is grown by most countries in Africa, but the countries with high volumes are;
- Sierra Leone
Planting of pumpkin
Pumpkin is mainly grown at the edge of garden patch so that they can spread away from other crops. Sow seed at a depth approximately three times the diameter of the seed. Pumpkin seeds can are planted in varying types of soils at soil temperatures between 20°C and 32°C . They need spacing of about 90 – 120 cm. There some farmers who devote a whole garden to pumpkins.
Most pumpkins reach maturity at 3 months to 4 months after sowing. Pumpkin reaches maturity when it starts ripening and changing the colour.
The fruit is harvested when the skin becomes hard and loses its shiny appearance. Pumpkins should not be left on the ground for too long after the foliage has died because wet soils and sun scald can cause damage and reduce storage qualities.
Preservation of pumpkin
The pumpkin can be processed and canned or kept frozen.
Traditionally pumpkin can be preserved by;
- Drying Pumpkins
- Drying Pumpkin Seeds
- Drying pumpkin and processing it into flour
- Pickling Pumpkin
Uses of pumpkin
- Pumpkin has powerful antioxidants, ant diabetic and anticancer properties.
- Pumpkin leaves are eaten as traditional vegetables
- Pumpkins can be processed into both fresh juice and wine.
- The seeds can be roasted l and seasoned with Salt for human consumption
- Pumpkin leaves are rich in Vitamin A, phosphorous, calcium and magnesium
- Pumpkin seeds are high in protein
- The fruit can be prepared in a number of ways as food or sauce or soup.
- Young pumpkins are effective in de-worming children and also help in fighting malnutrition
- They can serve as animal feeds
- Fatty acids
- High protein
- Vitamin E
- Anticancer properties
- Vitamin A