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Last week, Strite’s Farm Store (the local orchard and farm market that we frequent, year round) had about twenty different kinds of pumpkins, gourds, and squash.
I had to pace myself not to buy one of every single variety, just for fun.
I was thinking that pumpkins would make great, seasonally appropriate science lessons and that Grace would enjoy investigating all different kinds of pumpkins to see how they’re alike and different.
I purchased a Hubbard squash, a neck pumpkin, 2 big old jack-o-lantern pumpkins (because Grace wanted one for carving and I wanted one for investigating), a turban pumpkin, a little dark orange almost red flattened out pumpkin, a huge white pumpkin, and a few whose descriptions are more complicated.
All that plus apples for our taste test for $20. I was thrilled to see my biweekly allowance spent on science!
Sunday was a beautiful day. The girls and I were outside on the deck where all the pumpkins are awaiting their grizzly fates. Grace picked up the neck pumpkin and began to play with it. I don’t think she knew what it was, beyond an oddly shaped something-or-other.
Here is a great explanation and description of neck pumpkins, if you’ve never seen one. Apparently, they’re particular to south central Pennsylvania.
I asked Grace if she wanted to investigate the pumpkin.
Do all kids get excited about the word investigate? Grace was practically giddy.
“YES!” She squealed. “Let’s investigate the neck pumpkin!”
We all sat down and felt the pumpkin all over. We talked about the stem end, where the pumpkin attached to the plant, and the blossom end, where the flower was pollinated and grew this big seed-protecting neck pumpkin.
We also knocked on the pumpkin, and we learned that the neck sounds hollow while the round bottom sounds solid.
When we’d sufficiently investigated the outside of the pumpkin, I made the first cut, just above the bulby part.
Instantly, the pumpkin flesh began to weep. We talked about how there is water in the cells of the pumpkin and how it comes out because we cut the cells open. I don’t know if she understood this part or not, but at least she’s heard the terms once.
Both girls liked feeling the slimy pumpkin and tried to pierce it with their fingernails.
Next up, slice the bulby part. I was expecting a hollow-ish pumpkin, but that’s not what we found.
Grace felt the insides and decreed that they felt like spaghetti but were softer and a little squishy.
My eventual goal was roasting and cooking the neck pumpkin, so after Grace had sufficiently investigated the pumpkin, I gave her a spoon and told her that we had to scoop out the seeds in order to cook the pumpkin.
As happens with most of my brilliant teachable moments, she scooped for five seconds and then left me to do the rest. Once I had all the pumpkin guts in a bowl, Allie came along and poked around in them for a little while.
Allie stayed only a few minutes to play in the squishy mess, even though she’s normally really into squishy messes. I think she didn’t like the smell. Pumpkin guts have a very strong and distinct odor. I don’t enjoy it, either.
Both girls breezed through after I had all the guts scooped out to feel the pumpkin bowls leftover.
We picked through the pumpkin guts to find all the seeds (which we caramelized, more on that later this week).
Some people say you shouldn’t eat science investigations, but I have a huge problem wasting food. I rinsed the pumpkin off and roasted it for use in recipes.
Looking for more pumpkin goodness?
- Here’s an old post on how to cook a fresh pumpkin.
- My Pumpkin Recipes board on Pinterest
- My favorite pumpkin recipes are pumpkin pie pancakes and pumpkin pie with pecan topping
We’re going to use the same procedure to investigate the other pumpkins and squashes that I got, maybe 1 or 2 a week.
© 2012, Tara Ziegmont. All rights reserved.