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Uploaded:2017-10-24
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Jessi and Squeaks want to learn more about the inside of a pumpkin. How? By dissecting it!

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SOURCES:

http://www.pumpkin.com.au/history/pumpkin-anatomy/
https://extension.illinois.edu/pumpkins/history.cfm
http://basicbiology.net/plants/angiosperms/fruit/
http://pumpkinnook.com/howto/gardenpests.htm
(Intro)

It's fall and that means harvest season.  Lots of the fruit that has been growing around us are ready to be picked, harvested, and eaten, including pumpkins.  They're one of my favorite fall-time fruits, and they're more than just delicious.  They're also really fun to carve into Jack-o-Lanterns. 

Yep, pumpkins are a fruit.  Even though they're really hard on the outside and they aren't very sweet.  A fruit is the part of a plant that protects the plant's seeds and then helps spread the seeds around once they're ready to grow into new plants.  Yeah, I want to see those seeds, too, and you know when scientists want to learn more about something, a lot of the time, they'll open it up to investigate.  That's called dissecting, and we can do it, too.  Let's open up this pumpkin and find out what's inside.

To dissect a pumpkin, you'll need a grown up helper, a pumpkin carving tool or knife, a spoon, and a bowl to put the insides in.  Oh, and of course, you'll need a pumpkin.  Before we cut it open, let's see what we can learn by examining the outside of the pumpkin.  On top, there's the stem, which was part of the vine that connects the pumpkin fruit to the rest of the pumpkin plant and carries nutrients to the pumpkin fruit.

What else do you notice about the outside of the pumpkin?  Yeah, it is big.  People all over the world actually have competitions to see who can grow the biggest pumpkin, and they can get really huge.  Can you imagine trying to lift something like that?  The farmers have to use special machines to move their giant pumpkins.  This one's a little more normal sized, although it's still pretty heavy. 

The outside of the pumpkin is also really hard.  If you knock on it with your fist, it's kind of like knocking on a door.  That hard skin is called the rind and these lines on the side are called ribs.  The tough rind works kind of like a suit of armor, protecting the seeds from the outside world.  That's right, Squeaks, it's about time we cut this thing open.  Let's see what's inside.

First, we're going to cut a big hole in the rind, right around the vine.  You should probably get a grown-up to help you with this part, because it can be pretty tough.  Once you have the circle, you can use the vine to pull off the top like this.  Ooh, check it out, guys!  The inside of the pumpkin looks so different from the outside.  It's full of seeds.  We can pull them out using our hands or hahaha, we can get a spoon to get a closer look.

See how all these seeds are attached by these long gooey strings?  They're called fibrous strands and each one connects to a seed.  While the pumpkin fruit is still growing on the vine, the strands connect the seeds to the vine so that all kinds of nutrients and plant food can travel through the strands and get to the growing seeds.  Then, once the seeds are fully grown, they can just pop off of the fibrous strands.  After that, they're ready to grow into new pumpkin plants.  All they need is a nice patch of soil, but they're still inside the pumpkin fruit.

How are the seeds going to get planted if they're still stuck inside this hard rind?  Well, think about what you do with other fruits.  That's right, you eat them!  Lots of fruits have tasty bits that convince animals to come and eat their seeds.  Once the animals eat the seeds, they move somewhere else, and eventually, they poop.  That leaves some seeds on the ground ready to grow into new plants, and since the seeds are in a different place now, that means they aren't growing right next to the older, bigger pumpkin plants, where they might not get enough sunlight, water, or soil.  

You're right.  There is a lot left in this pumpkin, even though we've taken out the seeds and the fibrous strands.  The thick section between the rind and the cavity is called the pulp, and it's the tasty part of the pumpkin.  When a pumpkin fruit is ripe, the rind gets a bit softer and animals like deer, moles, squirrel, and mice can get through it to the delicious pulp and the seeds. 

Even though other animals eat pumpkin pulp raw, lots of people prefer to cook it or make it into pies, muffins, pancakes, and all sorts of yummy treats.  The seeds are also really tasty, but I'm going to make sure to plant some of them to become next year's pumpkin plants, and guess what we can do with the leftover rind?  That's right!  Now that we've emptied our pumpkin fruit, we can carve it into a Jack-o-Lantern.  

Have you ever looked inside a pumpkin?  What other fruits do you think we should dissect?  Ask a grownup to help you leave a comment down below or e-mail us at kids@scishow.com, and we'll see you next time here at the Fort.  

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