Is a pumpkin a fruit or a vegetable?

Brownwood Bulletin
Courtney Parrott

Inquiring minds might want to know on this National Pumpkin Day, is the orange orb a fruit or vegetable? The answer may surprise you! A pumpkin is, in fact, a fruit.

According to expert Joe Masabni, Ph.D., Texas A&M Agri Life Extension Service vegetable specialist in Dallas, scientifically speaking, a pumpkin is a fruit simply because anything that starts from a flower is botanically a fruit.

Do you consider a pumpkin a fruit or a vegetable?

Usually, fruits and vegetables have been named according to how they are consumed. How people eat them versus how people see them is often different.

“We see them as to whether we eat them as a dessert, salad or food,” Masabni said.

So, consider a cucumber or tomato. People don’t typically eat those as desserts; they eat them in a salad or cooked in a meal, so they became classified as vegetables, even though they are officially fruit.

“Pumpkin is a tricky one,” he said, “because some people make soups or stews from pumpkins, which is a meal, while others make pies, which is a dessert. So that can sometimes be confusing.”

What is the difference between a fruit and a vegetable?

The difference between a fruit and a vegetable is established in how they grow.

“All plants start from seedlings. Let’s take the example of lettuce as a vegetable,” Masabni said. “It makes more and more leaves, and then you harvest it and eat those leaves. If you let it go even longer, it will eventually make a flower stalk and make seeds for next year’s crop.”

The same thing happens with a pumpkin; however, that flower becomes the pumpkin we eat.

“It starts with a small plant and a few leaves, and as the leaves grow and more branches develop, flowers will start to bloom on the plants,” he said. “Those flowers then need to be pollinated by bees or other wild pollinators. Once that flower is pollinated, that flower develops into a fruit that we consume. So ultimately, a fruit relies on pollination of the flower, which will then grow to the part of the plant that we eat.”

What other vegetables are actually fruits?

Although we may typically base our knowledge of fruits and vegetables from their sweet and savory tendencies or where they are placed in our meals, it seems that many of our regularly thought of vegetables are actually fruits, simply because they come from a flower.

Some of those include cucumbers, olives, tomatoes, eggplants, avocadoes, corn, zucchini, okra, string beans, peppers and, of course, pumpkins.

Now the biggest decision is how it will be consumed at your own table this holiday season. Will you consider it a vegetable in your main dish or a fruit on your dessert plate?

Think safety while hunting

Texas A&M Forest Service urges Texans to help prevent wildfires during hunting season The Texas A&M Forest Service is encouraging Texans to protect lands and all they love this hunting season by being mindful of activities that may cause a wildfire.

Nine out of 10 wildfires in Texas are human caused. (Texas A&M AgriLife photo by Courtney Sacco)

From 2016 to 2020, Texas A&M Forest Service responded to 3,742 wildfires that burned nearly 1.5 million acres. During that time, 37% of wildfires occurred during the major hunting season months of September through January.

“Texas A&M Forest Service wants all hunters to be safe this upcoming season,” said Karen Stafford, the agency’s state wildfire prevention program leader. “We all have a role to play in protecting our state from wildfires, so remember to do your part and don’t let a wildfire start.”

While the state has not seen any hard freezing temperatures yet this year, drought-cured grasses cover much of the western plains, making wildfires easier to start.

“Drought- or freeze-cured grasses provide a very receptive medium for an accidental wildfire ignition, and dead grass will readily ignite under a wide range of weather conditions,” said Brad Smith, Texas A&M Forest Service Predictive Services Department head. “An additional factor that will contribute to the difficulty of extinguishing a fire burning in dead grass this year is that there is a lot of grass on the landscape due to above-normal rainfall during this year’s growing season. Wildfires burning in tall, thick stands of grass will burn hotter, spread faster and require more effort to extinguish.”

Reducing human-caused fires

Nine out of 10 wildfires in Texas are human-caused, and 65% of wildfires that occur during hunting season are caused by debris burning and equipment use, including parking in dry grass and dragging trailer chains. Texas A&M Forest Service encourages hunters to be cautious with any activity that may cause a spark.

Some simple tips to help avoid accidentally starting a wildfire while hunting and camping this fall include:

· Avoid driving over and parking on dry grass – the heat from your vehicle can easily ignite the grass.

· Always check with local officials for burn bans or other outdoor burning restrictions. Each county in Texas sets and lifts their own burn bans. Make sure you know your county’s burn ban status and if it restricts open flames and other heat-causing activities such as using charcoal. View the latest burn ban map here: https://tfsweb.tamu.edu/burnbans/.

· When using a cooking fire or campfire, never leave it unattended, and always make sure it is completely out. Drown and stir the coals and get close enough to feel any heat to ensure the fire and embers are extinguished before you leave.

· If you are taking a trailer out on your adventures, make sure that the tires are properly inflated. Make sure chains do not contact the road and that any loose metal will not continually hit any other surface that may cause a spark.

· Always be ready to put out a fire should one start. Have a shovel and water with you in camp and have a fire extinguisher with you at all times.

For more information on preventing wildfires this hunting season, visit https://tfsweb.tamu.edu/HuntingFireSafety/.