Fall is my favorite time of the year. The time of the year when the leaves turn from green to shades of red, orange and yellow. It’s the time before the rainy season; the last hurrah of the sun. In the midst of this time the pumpkins arrive.
Carefully choosing the right pumpkin has been a welcome routine every fall since Calvin was born. As we added children the trips became more about being together as a family and less about picking out the right pumpkin. Last year we didn’t even make it to the pumpkin patch; we chose three of the largest pumpkins from our local grocery store. This year? The kids decided they were tired of the pumpkin patch. Sigh.
I may not get them to the patch, but I CAN get the pumpkins to them. This week I scheduled “Pumpkins” as the focus of our nature study. Normally, I would drag my three to the patch … I just didn’t have the energy to fight. Instead I turned to our trusty Handbook of Nature Study for inspiration.
The pumpkin information is found on pages 611-617. Lesson #171 (The Pumpkin) starts on pages 615. It is divided into two parts: Vine and Flowers and The Fruit. Today we studied the pumpkin fruit.
Do you know all the pumpkin part names?
We examined the exterior of the pumpkin BEFORE we cut it open.
Stem: The stem is officially called the stalk. It is located at the top of the pumpkin. My kids call it the handle. This is where the pumpkin was attached to the vine. It is referred to as the “umbilical cord” of the pumpkin. The stem is tough, but can be easily broken from the fruit if not handled correctly. This short stem felt very rough, with stubby hair-like itchy covering. We found that it would NOT easily break from our pumpkin.
Shell: The shell of the pumpkin refers to the skin and the inside pulp. This pumpkin had a beautiful shell, hard and well formed.
Rib: The ridges along the pumpkin are ribs. The handbook refers to them as creases. Sometimes they are deep, sometimes they are shallow. For carving purposes shallow ribs are easier, however I prefer the deep ridges.
Observation 1 – Do you think the pumpkin is a beautiful fruit? Why? Describe its shape and the way it is creased.
Blossom End: This is the bottom of the pumpkin. When the fruit was young there was a blossom at the end. The flower fell off and left a scar. It cannot be referred to as the belly button of the pumpkin because the stem is where the fruit gets nutrients from the plant.
Did you know that your knife must be VERY sharp to cut a pumpkin in half? That is because the skin or rind of the pumpkin is hard. The meat of the pumpkin is not as hard, but it’s not mushy or soft like the pulp. Finally, after Ben lent us his strong muscles, the pumpkin was ready for internal inspection.
Skin/Rind: The thin orange exterior part of the shell. It’s purpose is to keep insects and disease out of the fruit. It is NOT edible.
Meat: This is the part of the fruit that is edible. The pumpkin has the characteristic fibrous texture of squash. This pumpkin had a bland flavor, probably because it was a carving pumpkin. It did leave a strange aftertaste.
Cavity: The cavity is the center of the pumpkin’s interior. It cradles the brains and seeds. When emptied it leaves a hollow space.
Seeds: The white seeds are attached to the fibers at the pointed end. The seed itself is covered in a thin transparent coat, followed by two additional layers. The interior of the seed is called the nut. We were unsuccessful in dissecting the seed.
At this point the girls were EWWing all over the place. Pumpkin brains are very slimy and the small seeds are slippery. Gabby eagerly scooped seeds out of the pumpkin for roasting; Bella and I began the task of setting up the microscope for deeper observation.
We found the meat to be the most fascinating. It was made up of what we called molecules. We were actually observing the cells that make up the fruit’s meat. I could not get my cell phone to record what we saw. The pulp fiber was colorful and showed many water cells.
This year I am requiring the girls to journal during our nature studies more than I have in the past. To make it easier on them, I quickly created a simple notebook page. You can download it here.
While we finished up the observations, the pumpkin seeds gently roasted in the oven. Here’s a great recipe for making your own.
We enjoyed our study of pumpkins and look forward to enjoying the fruit of our labor!
Inspired by Barb’s Outdoor Hour Challenge.