Coming from the native regions of North America, pumpkins are one of the most wildly grown food products in the world.
From sweet pies and purées to stunning Jack-o’-lanterns, we all just love these fruits. Yes, pumpkins are fruits.
But have you ever actually thought, why are pumpkins orange in color? For getting an answer to “Why are pumpkins orange?” we are taking a little help from biology.
Let’s see what generally gives fruits their colors.
Why are Pumpkins Orange? – Science Bits
Phytonutrients are the compounds responsible for the beautiful colorations in a variety of fruits and vegetables.
But the actual magic is displayed by phytochemicals further produced in them. The color difference in various fruits and vegetables is also because of different types of these phytochemicals.
The most popular phytochemicals are carotenoids, carotenes, lycopene, cryptoxanthin, sulforaphane, isocyanate, indoles, and anthocyanins.
Lycopene is the chemical compound present in vegetables like tomatoes and fruits like watermelon, apricot, and red oranges. It is responsible for their red color.
Sulforaphane, Isocyanate, and Indoles are present in cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and cabbages. They are also present in spinach, avocados, and kiwi fruits. They give these edibles their green look.
Anthocyanins are responsible for the blue, purple, and red colors in different fruits and veggies. It is found in berries, grapes, plums, and figs.
And finally, Carotenoids, Carotene, and β-Cryptoxanthin are responsible for the characteristic yellow and orange color in pumpkins, oranges, and carrots.
Fun Fact: Carotenoids and carotenes were first discovered in carrots and were microscopically found to be orange pigments. That’s why they are also named after carrots.
So, here you have it. Why are pumpkins orange? It’s because they have orange pigments named carotenoids in them.
But all pumpkins are not orange.
How Many Colors of Pumpkins Are There?
You may be surprised to know that pumpkins also come in colors like green, yellow, red, blue, and even white.
Orange is the conventional color for pumpkins. Most savories are formed from ripe orange pumpkins because the internal part is more smooth and mushy. They are most commonly used to carve during Halloween.
Green is also a natural color. Almost all of the pumpkins are green when they are not ripe. They eventually change their color to orange as they ripen. Some pumpkins are artificially colored yellow but some can naturally turn yellow instead of orange.
All other colors are hybrids and are artificially grown and produced in different parts of the world.
Why Pumpkins Change Their Color to Orange?
You can find green pumpkins on some farms. With time, these green pumpkins change their color to a beautiful orange hue.
Pumpkins change their color from green to orange in the same way like leaves turn yellow during autumn. As we all know, leaves get their deep green color due to a photosynthetic pigment called chlorophyll.
Chlorophyll is a green pigment found in green parts of the plants such as leaves and stems. It is responsible for the process of photosynthesis. Photosynthesis helps plants to form their organic food from inorganic substances like CO2 and H2O in the presence of light.
You may have also seen leaves turning yellow in seasons other than fall. This happens because of the depletion of chlorophyll from the leaves either due to natural aging or a lack of proper nutrients.
In the same way, when pumpkins ripe during long nights of the autumn season, the production of chlorophyll is gradually reduced and ultimately diminishes. This exposes the carotenoids, especially alpha and beta carotenes, on the surface and the pumpkins change their hue to orange.
Carrots and sweet potatoes also change their color in the same way. Some vegetables containing the same phytochemicals change their color to yellow or red instead of orange, as we see in bananas or bell peppers.
Green veggies like broccoli and spinach also contain carotenoids under a large bundle of chlorophyll, but we only see the colors reflected from the above surface.
How To Change Green Pumpkins to Orange?
You can still change the color of your pumpkin if you harvested it before turning it into a beautiful big orange ball. This will work only under the right conditions and the right season.
- Fall is the season during which the chlorophyll naturally degrades leading to the orange color.
- Keeping your pumpkins in bright sunny spots will help speed up the process.
- If you still have them attached to the vine, then make sure with proper lighting, the soil I also well moisturized.
- If you have harvested them, then keep them in a warm, sunny, and dry spot to prevent rot or mold.
Face the green parts toward the sun from time to time, this will result in an even coloration.
Uses Of Pumpkins
Pumpkins are traditionally used for carving purposes during Halloween. Many farmers try to grow big and hollow pumpkins with a thinner outer flesh that’s easier to carve only to create striking Jack-o’-lanterns.
There are a lot of amazing dishes made from these big orange orbs. Pumpkin pie, for example, is generally used as a thanksgiving meal in Canada and the US. Pumpkins can also be boiled, steamed, and roasted to make purées and soups.
In Vietnam, pumpkins are commonly cooked in soups with prawns or shrimp. In Europe and China, pumpkin seeds are roasted and eaten as snacks. Pumpkins are also used to add flavor to different beverages.
Pumpkins are a good source for Vitamins A and C. They also contain a lot of antioxidants. According to USDA, pumpkins contain 26 Kcal of energy per 100g.
Interesting Fact: 100g of pumpkin contains 426µg of Vitamin A. It’s equivalent to 53% of your daily vitamin dose needed.
With all that said, now you know why are pumpkins orange. In fact, now you know much more than that. 😉
Also, I forgot to mention that pumpkins have also been used in medicine by native Americans to treat intestinal and urinary ailments.
On that note, let us know if you liked today’s article. Please share this unique info with your friends and family.
Regards, Mahad H.