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Plants & Gardens Blog

Dissect a Pumpkin (Activity)

When plant scientists want to learn more about something, they open it up and investigate. That’s called dissection. For this activity we recommend using a pumpkin, but you can dissect any other fruits or vegetables you have at home.

Materials: Pumpkin, large bowl, spoon, knife, tape measure

Tools for pumpkin dissection, a large bowl, pumpkin, knife, spoon and measuring tape are laid out on a wooden table.
Photo by Ellen McCarthy.
  1. Look closely at the pumpkin's parts: You will probably notice a stem on top and an orange rind full of ridges. When the pumpkin is growing on the vine, the stem brings nutrients in from the rest of plant. The thick rind protects the seeds. Feel the ridges on the outside of the pumpkin—they are called ribs.
  2. Can you find a circular indentation on the bottom your pumpkin? This is where a flower once was! Pumpkin plants make flowers, and when a flower is pollinated, the pumpkin fruit forms. When the flower dies off, this circular scar is left in its place. Can you find other fruits with this type of scar in your kitchen?
  3. A measuring tape is wrapped around a pumpkin.
    Photo by Ellen McCarthy.
  4. Pumpkins really vary in size. How big around do you think yours is? Measure and see how close you were.
  5. A pumpkin with its top cut out, there are seeds inside.
    Photo by Ellen McCarthy.
  6. With the help of an adult, cut a circle around the stem and take it off. How many seeds do you think are inside? Have a contest with another person to guess the number of seeds.
  7. Washed pumpkin seeds sit inside a strainer set in a bowl. To its side is a piece of paper which says
    Photo by Ellen McCarthy.
  8. Use a spoon to scoop out the seeds and examine one closely. What does it feel like? What does it smell like?
  9. Try to dissect the seed by peeling off the outer shell, called the seed coat. Inside you can find the germ, or baby plant.
  10. Count all the seeds once you scoop them out. How close was your guess?

With your dissection complete, you can either finish carving your pumpkin into a jack-o-lantern or use the flesh in a recipe. The seeds can be roasted for a tasty snack using the recipe below.

Recipe: Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

Pumpkin seeds sit on a paper towel next to a bottle of olive oil and container of salt.
Photo by Ellen McCarthy.

Ingredients:
Raw pumpkin seeds
2 teaspoons olive oil or melted butter
Salt, to taste

Instructions:

Remove the seeds from your pumpkin and put in a fine mesh strainer. Use your hands to separate the seeds from the gooey strands under some running water. Let dry on a paper towel. Note: The trick to crunchy roasted pumpkin seeds is to make sure they are completely dry before roasting.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Place dry pumpkin seeds in a bowl. Pour olive oil or butter over seeds and toss to coat. Place pumpkin seeds on baking sheet in a single layer. Sprinkle with salt. Bake, stirring often, for 12–15 minutes or until golden brown.

Go on a Garden Quest and learn more! Each quest includes a short video, Garden exploration, and at-home activity.

Ellen McCarthy is the Children’s Garden co-coordinator.

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