Table of content A-Z


winter squash


Synonym: giant pumpkin; botanical name: Cucurbita maxima



Winter squash originated in South America. It is normally grown outdoors. Countries that cultivate it are e.g., China, Turkey, Japan, and France. It can be grown in a hothouse, but this method doesn't really pay. Cultivation on a commercial basis does not play any significant role in Germany.


Winter squash is available from July to January. However, the supply is particularly great between August and December.

Appearance, taste, characteristics

Winter squash can weigh up to 100 kg and can reach up to 0.5 m in diameter, making it one of the largest fruits in the vegetable kingdom. Most winter squashes have a thick, inedible shell covering its very soft and juicy pulp. The pulp is white to yellow-orange. Winter squash is characterized by a neutral to slightly perfumed flavor.

A number of varieties belong to the species winter squash. The one best-known in Germany is the Hokkaido pumpkin (Cucurbita maxima ssp. maxima convar. hubbardiana). It comes from the Japanese Island of Hokkaido, is relatively small, and quite light at 1–2 kg. Its shell is rather thin and dark-orange to red or even green. It softens when it is cooked and can be eaten with the pulp. The pulp of the Hokkaido pumpkin is orange, with a nutty flavor and fibers that are hardly noticeable. The seeds are not edible.

The Buttercup is popular in the USA and it is also widespread elsewhere. It is a variety of winter squash that is suitable for storage. The dark-green fruit with a proliferation at the blossom end is flat, weights up to 3 kg, and has thick yellow-orange pulp.


With regard to secondary plant substances, winter squash contains considerable amounts of carotenoids. 100 g contain:

Energie (kcal)
Wasser (g)
Eiweiß (g)
Fett (g)
< 1
< 1
Kohlenhydrate (g)
Ballaststoffe (g)
Vitamin C (mg)
Vitamin A (RÄ) (µg)
Carotin (mg)
Folsäure (µg)
Kalium (mg)
Natrium (mg)
Calcium (mg)
Magnesium (mg)
Eisen (mg)

Quality criteria, optimal storage conditions

Before you buy a pumpkin, tap the shell with your fingers; a ringing sound is a sign of ripeness. Spotty pumpkins are not recommended, nor should the shell be damage. Do not hold a pumpkin by its stalk, as at breaks off easily. If you buy a pumpkin that has already been cut open, be careful that the pulp doesn't appear white or stringy.

Winter squash that is harvested in late autumn can be kept for a long time. When storing it, however, you should take its sensitivity to cold into consideration. The optimal storage temperature is 10–13°C.

Form of consumption, use, processing, practical tips for preparation

A large portion of a pumpkin is waste: approximately 25% – the shell, the seeds, and the fibers – cannot be eaten.

Pumpkin is best-known as a sweet-sour preserve. This is also sold by the food industry. However, pumpkin has a must broader range of uses. Try a pumpkin soup, pumpkin cooked as a vegetable, or a pumpkin stew. In addition to sweet and sour preserves, compotes and jams are sold commercially.

Pumpkin seeds – roasted and salted – are a popular snack. A nutty-tasting pumpkin seed oil can be extracted from the seeds; it is used especially in Austrian cuisine.

Seasoning tip

Chilli, ginger, curry, cloves, or cinnamon all taste good with pumpkin.


* In the USA it has long been a tradition to hollow out a pumpkin at Halloween, carve a face into the shell, and place it in front of the door with a lighted candle inside. This custom is becoming increasingly popular here in Germany as well.

* The pumpkin seeds that have been recommended for some time now as treatment for prostate problems in men are the shell-less seeds of the variety Cucurbita pepo convar. citrullinina var. styriaca. The seeds of our giant pumpkins are not suitable for this purpose.

* If you want to read more about pumpkins/squash in general, look at the page "Squash".





  This article was written by




  With the website the Fritz Terfloth Foundation of Münster offers consumers independent and competent information about plant foods and their health effects. All texts are subject to German copyright law. Information about the conditions for use of the texts by third parties can be found here.