Unripe Pumpkin Eating – Are Green Pumpkins Edible

By: Bonnie L. Grant, Certified Urban Agriculturist

It has probably happened to all of us. The season is ending, your pumpkin vines are dying, and your fruits have not yet turned orange. Are they ripe or not? Can you eat green pumpkins? Unripe pumpkin eating is likely not as tasty as ripe fruits, but will it harm you? Answers to these questions and more follow.

Can You eat Green Pumpkins?

Nothing says fall like squash and pumpkins. Unfortunately, the colder weather and lack of sunshine can mean much of our produce didn’t ripen properly. It doesn’t have to go to waste though. Consider the fried green tomato, a thing of such delicate flavor as to make your mouth sing. Are green pumpkins edible? Well, they won’t kill you, but the flavor may lack sweetness.

Green pumpkins happen. All pumpkins start out green and gradually ripen to orange. Once they are ripe the vine dies, and the fruit is ready. With cooler temperatures and less sunlight, it is unlikely the pumpkins will ripen. You can try putting them in a sunny, warm area like a greenhouse or solarium. You can also just leave them in place, provided there aren’t any hard freezes.

Turn them frequently to expose the rind to any sun. With a little luck the fruits will mature more, although they may not turn all the way orange. They are still edible and can be used in a variety of recipes.

Tips on Eating Green Pumpkins

To be sure they are usable, cut one open. If the flesh is orange, it will be almost as nice as a ripe fruit. Even green flesh can be used in soups and stews – just make sure to spice it up. Flavors like Indian and Szechuan can go a long way to embellishing the green fruit.

Eating green pumpkins in pie is not recommended, as there aren’t enough sugars built up in the fruit. Plus, your pumpkin pie will be a sickly color. Roasting the flesh will help bring out sugars a little bit and enhance the flavor.

Actual Green Pumpkins

Still wondering if green pumpkins are edible? Cast your mind back to spring. What variety of pumpkin did you plant? There are pumpkin varieties that are supposed to be green. Jarrahdale is a bluish-green pumpkin with a shape like Cinderella’s coach. Other varieties are Goblin, Turk’s Turban, Italian Stripe, Black and Silver, and Shamrock pumpkin.

Several squash varieties also look like pumpkins but are naturally green. Hubbard, acorn, and kabocha come to mind. If you are sure it is a variety that is supposed to turn orange, you can try adding smaller fruit to a bag of apples. The ethylene gas released may help the fruit ripen.

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Pumpkins are warm season annuals that belong to the Cucurbitaceae (cucurbit) family, making them related to squash, cucumbers and melons. These North American natives bear yellow flowers in late summer that give way to ornamental orange or white fruit with edible flesh. Easy-to-grow pumpkins attract several insect pests, including the notorious squash bug. Several cultural and chemical treatment methods can help you get rid of squash bugs and keep your pumpkin plant healthy and productive.

Pumpkin As Food

As it turns out, there is a difference between pumpkins meant to be carved into jack-o-lanterns and those meant for consumption which are often called “pie pumpkins.” Most pumpkins can be consumed but some are better suited than others. What you look for in a carving pumpkin is minimal flesh, so that you can hollow it out nicely, and carve shapes with ease. These can be eaten but they are generally watery and lack flavor. The kind of pumpkins you want to eat are generally heavier than they appear because they are dense with flesh. This flesh is what you want when you eat a pumpkin. It can be pureed and roasted either diced or whole. There are a great variety of recipes both sweet and savory that utilize pumpkin flesh. On small pumpkins such as Jack Be-Little’s, you can carve out the pulp, bake whole and eat the inside with various topics as if from a bowl.

Edible varieties that most resemble the proverbial pumpkin include the Cinderella, The Fairy Tale, New England Pie, Long Island Cheese, and Baby Pam. Others of the heirloom variety are the Jarrahdale, and the Hubbard, to name a few. Even if you are just carving pumpkins, you can make a nice snack from the seeds and the pulp by spreading the mixture on a baking sheet and roasting it in the oven. The stringy pulp caramelizes, making it sweet and nutty, while the seeds develop a nice crunch. That also saves you time by not having to clean the seeds of the pulp. If you want to create even less waste, you can bake whatever you carved out of the pumpkin.

The leaves and flowers of the pumpkin are edible as well, which I found most interesting. You can find these for sale at farmers markets, but they need to be eaten fresh. Flowers make an awesome snack, either stuffed with cheese or fried in tempura. Leaves are a bit more versatile, allowing one to use more for shakes, soups, or salads.The skin can also be eaten. When you roast a pumpkin, you can peel the skin off and dehydrate it to make healthy chips out of it.

Green vs White Pumpkin Seed Benefits

There is a single nutritional difference between green and fresh, white pumpkin seeds. In a word, it is fiber.

For example, a quarter cup (32 grams or about a palmful) of fresh pumpkin seeds with the hulls has about 6 grams of fiber. The same amount of shelled raw pumpkins seeds, aka pepitas, has about 2.2 grams of fiber…approximately one-third the amount. (1, 2)

So, if you are looking to increase the fiber in your diet, eating fresh pumpkin seeds with the shells on is a good option for snacking.

Another benefit of eating white pumpkin seeds with the hulls on is that this fiber is anti-parasitic.

In particular, pumpkin seed hull fiber is effective as a natural dewormer of the digestive tract if you consume small amounts on a regular basis.

This is due to the fact that the hulls contain a chemical called cucurbitacin that causes paralysis in worms such as tapeworms and roundworms. This allows them to be more easily expelled by the body via the stool. (3, 4)

Watch the video: Health Benefits Of Eating Pumpkin! Nutritional Benefits Of The Pumpkin Powerhouse! Dr. Nick Z.

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