Pumpkins are a popular fall crop that find their way into foods such as soup, pie, and other desserts as well as decorations. What many people don’t realize is that the flowers of the pumpkin plant are useful as well and can also be used in edible dishes for your holiday meals.
Pumpkin flowers serve more of a purpose than just an extra part of the plant that we can consume—they are vital to the pumpkin plant and pumpkin fruit as well. These multi-purpose flowers are often overlooked, but they may be one of the most impressive parts of the plant.
Do Pumpkin Flowers Turn Into Pumpkins?
Plants that produce fruit grow flowers that, when fertilized, grow and transform into the fruit of the plant. The same goes for the pumpkin plant, although not all of the flowers have this ability.
Pumpkin plants grow both male and female flowers, and only the female flowers can turn into pumpkins. The male flowers generally grow first and are responsible for creating the pollen that fertilizes the female flowers.
You will generally see more male flowers than female flowers growing on your pumpkin plant, especially for the first few weeks.
Once you start to see your first male flowers growing, expect to see female flowers popping up approximately a week later.
The female flowers, if pollinated, can grow into the pumpkins that we know and love. In addition to being pollinated, the conditions must be ideal for the flower to transform into a fruit.
Pumpkin flowers are a little bit picky when it comes to growing conditions, but a healthy plant should be able to grow plenty of pumpkins.
How Can You Distinguish Between the Male and Female Flowers?
From the naked eye, there is little difference between male and female flowers. The main thing to watch for is a slight bulge at the base of the flower head.
If there is a bulge, you are probably looking at a female flower. This bulge is the part of the flower that will grow into a pumpkin if fertilized and cared for properly.
If your flower does not have a bulge towards the base, you probably have a male flower.
From a biological view, there are more differences to be found between the males and females as with any species.
To name a few, the female flowers have an ovary and a long stigma, which is the part of the flower responsible for pollen germination. The male flowers do not have these parts and instead have stamens which produce pollen for reproduction.
Female flowers actually have stamens as well, although they do not produce pollen that is functional.
Should I Remove Pumpkin Flowers?
Without pumpkin flowers, there will be no pumpkins. If your goal is to grow pumpkins, you should make sure to leave some flowers growing on the vine.
Although leaving some flowers to grow and turn into pumpkins is important, some growers will opt to pinch off new flowers once they already have some earlier blooming flowers in the stage of turning into pumpkins.
If your goal is to grow the largest pumpkins possible, you can start removing new blooms as soon as you have a few pumpkins growing.
It is generally recommended to have at least three to four pumpkins growing on each plant to account for any damage that may reduce yield before harvest.
By removing new flowers, the plant will be able to direct its energy into growing the pumpkins it has already started, helping them grow larger.
Although you technically would only need to remove the female flowers, the male flowers are not serving a purpose without female flowers to pollinate.
By removing all new flowers and not taking the time to inspect each one, you will save yourself time—unless you want to save some flowers to eat!
If you would rather grow as many pumpkins as possible and are not concerned about the size, simply leave all growing flowers alone and let nature take its course.
Although the plant will not be able to support all potential pumpkins, the plant will weed out the weak growers to make room for healthier fruits on its own—no intervention required!
Can You Eat Pumpkin Flowers?
Pumpkins aren’t the only edible things that come from pumpkin vines—you can eat the flowers too! In fact, pumpkin flowers are found in a number of popular dishes around the world, particularly in southern India.
Although it would be perfectly safe to eat a pumpkin flower straight from the vine—assuming it’s clean—most people use them to cook with and add to dishes.
Some popular uses are in soup, salads, salad dressing, teas, fritters, and with rice.
With such a wide variety of uses, there are bound to be some meals you know that could benefit from some pumpkin flowers—it may be worth a try!
What Do Pumpkin Flowers Taste Like?
Pumpkin flowers are said to have a garden green taste that is subtly sweet, like a pumpkin. Pumpkins are a member of the squash family, and the taste has been compared to that of squash as well.
Different individuals can interpret the same taste differently, so there is some disagreement on the exact taste—I guess you’ll have to try it yourself!
Some pumpkin flower growers claim that the male flowers have a stronger taste than female flowers. The males’ flowers are also said to be easier for eating because they do not have the ovary bulge growing at the base, meaning there is more of the flower that you can eat.
When eating a female pumpkin flower, it is best to cut out the ovary section. Although it is edible, it is generally avoided due to its toughness—and it doesn’t sound very appetizing.
What Do Pumpkin Flowers Look Like?
When pumpkin flowers are in bloom, they add a nice pop of color to your garden. These flowers are approximately four to five inches across and only come in one color – yellow – with 5 petals.
The yellow coloration is bright and will catch your eye when you look outside When opened up, the petals form the shape of a star—with the color to match!
Do Pumpkin Flowers Have Health Benefits?
Pumpkin flowers are most known for their high vitamin B9 content—known commonly as folic acid. Vitamin B9 is recommended for women before and during pregnancy to prevent certain birth defects.
This vitamin is also used in some anemia treatments, and it may make your hair and nails grow faster.
Consuming pumpkin flowers is said to be a good way to make sure you are getting enough folic acid in your diet, although it shouldn’t necessarily be a replacement for supplements if recommended by your doctor.
Overall, pumpkin flowers are considered a healthy food. In addition to vitamin B9, they are also a good source of dietary fiber, vitamin B6, calcium, phosphorus, potassium, vitamin A, vitamin C, folate, iron, magnesium, and copper.
With all these great nutrients available, it’s no wonder why some cultures use pumpkin flowers in cooking so often.
When Do Pumpkin Flowers Start Showing Up?
You will start to see your pumpkin flowers approximately six to eight weeks after your pumpkin plant has sprouted—this is when the plant is mature enough to start growing pumpkins.
The first flowers to show up will almost always be male flowers. In fact, the whole first weeks’ worth of flowers will most likely all be male flowers.
After the first week of blooms, you will start to see female flowers as well. Overall, you will probably see more male flowers than female flowers—this stays consistent throughout the life of the plant.
How Long Do Pumpkin Flowers Last?
Each pumpkin flower will only last about four hours before starting to wilt and eventually die off. Although the flowers don’t last very long, new blooms will pop up nearly every day.
In general, male flowers will bloom first thing in the morning to attract pollinators, with female flowers potentially blooming in the afternoon.
If you plan to pick any of your pumpkin flowers to eat, you will want to pick them before they start to wilt, preferably shortly after they have opened for the best taste. Since the flowers only last around four hours, you will want to start looking for flowers early in the day.
How Do You Pollinate Pumpkin Flowers?
Pumpkin flowers require pollination, just like any other plant. The most common—and easiest—way that pumpkin flowers get pollinated is from pollinators like bees.
To encourage pollinators to come and do their jobs, you can plant other plants nearby that attract them such as lavender, asters, peonies, and lilacs. Not only will these flowers attract pollinators, but you will also have beautiful flowers to look at, and most have a good fragrance as well.
If you truly can’t get pollinators to visit your pumpkin flowers, you can pollinate by hand. To do this, you can use a cotton swab or just your finger to brush the male stamen to collect pollen. Once the pollen is collected, lightly brush the female stigma to transfer the pollen.
How Do You Harvest Pumpkin Flowers?
If you do plan on eating some of your pumpkin flowers, there are a few things to consider when harvesting. To pick the flowers, however, there is no special trick, simply pinching the blooms off with your fingers works just fine—although some may prefer to use pruning shears.
Before you remove the flowers, it is a good idea to check for insects and brush any off—if it’s a bee, let it finish up before picking though.
Once the flowers are removed, you will want to remove the spines of the flowers, located on the underside of the petals. These spines won’t hurt you, but they are not generally a part of the flower you want to consume due to the toughness.
If you are eating a female flower, you will want to remove the large ovary section found at the top of the stem near the undersides of the petals. Again, this section is technically edible, but it’s not appetizing.
If you want to avoid the extra step of removing the ovary, you can aim for male flowers only. The best way to find male flowers is to get up early in the morning when the flowers first start to bloom.
The blooms that open up in the morning are almost always male—the flowers will be the freshest at this time also.
Don’t forget to check other tree with yellow flowers on our blog. They’re beautiful!
*featured photo by Obraz/depositphotos