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article imageOp-Ed: Canned pumpkin? Chances are good that the can contains squash

By Karen Graham     Sep 16, 2016 in Food
It's getting to that time of year when our thoughts turn to pumpkin pies, fresh out of the oven, their spicy aroma wafting insidiously around our nostrils, telling us that fall is here. Ah, yes, squash never smelled so good......
I had never given too much thought to what a pumpkin really was because, living in Southwestern Virginia, many of us picked up what we called "cushaws" at the fall festivals and farmer's markets, taking them home to make pumpkin pies.
No, the cushaws didn't look like the Charlie Brown "Great Pumpkin" children are so familiar with or the pumpkin most jack-o-lanterns come from. What we were eating as pumpkin was actually a squash, and that was OK with me because after the fruit was cooked and pureed, it made a great-tasting pumpkin pie.
Pumpkin pie is a traditional Thanksgiving dessert.
Pumpkin pie is a traditional Thanksgiving dessert.
Peggy Greb
But I learned today that about all of the canned pumpkin on grocery store shelves doesn't contain any of the pulp of that big, orange, globular fruit we have come to identify as pumpkin. Chances are very good that we have been enjoying either butternut squash pie all these years or a pie made with a variety of squash known as the Dickinson pumpkin.
And that "pumpkin pie spice" we lovingly add to our pumpkin pies and coffee lattes? It's actually squash-pie spice. It would be an unappetizing and very big turn-off to go into a Starbucks and ask for a “squash spice latte."
Pumpkin versus squash
The traditional pumpkin seen at Halloween and in fall decorations is called Cucurbita pepo, a domesticated plant from the genus Cucurbita. This genus gives us summer and winter squash varieties, and that traditional fruit we call a pumpkin.
This is a variant of Cucurbita pepo  beloved and time-honored symbol of fall.
This is a variant of Cucurbita pepo, beloved and time-honored symbol of fall.
Martin Doege
But the variety of squash that is the sole ingredient in most all of the canned pumpkin sold in the U.S. today is called Cucurbita moschata. Libby's, which is responsible for 85 percent of the canned pumpkin sold worldwide, uses the Dickinson variety of C. moschata, specifically developed for the company.
And THIS is the Dickinson variety of Cucurbita moschata  the sole ingredient in most canned “pumpk...
And THIS is the Dickinson variety of Cucurbita moschata, the sole ingredient in most canned “pumpkin” sold in the U.S.
What's in a name, anyway?
Whether you want to call a pumpkin a pumpkin or a squash, just remember that all of the pumpkins and squash varieties are related, so it is strictly a matter of semantics, right? Even the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has a rule governing what can be called pumpkin when you buy that canned pumpkin for your Thanksgiving pie.
To be precise, the FDA regulations are somewhat specific when it comes to labeling of pumpkin. "In the labeling of articles prepared from golden-fleshed, sweet squash or mixtures of such squash and field pumpkin, we will consider the designation "pumpkin" to be in essential compliance with the "common or usual name" requirements of sections 403(i)(l) and 403(i)(2) of the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, and the "specifying of identity" required by section 1453(a)(1) of the Fair Packaging and Labeling Act."
As for me, I think I'll keep calling those holiday pies 'pumpkin pies', but only because calling them 'squash pies' just doesn't sound quite as appetizing.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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