International Journal of Food Processing Technology, 2016, 3, 27-35 27
E-ISSN: 2408-9826/16 © 2016 Cosmos Scholars Publishing House
Physical Properties of Cucurbita Ficifolia Seed and Functional
Properties of Whole and Defatted Meal
Jesús Rodríguez-Miranda1, Betsabé Hernández-Santos1, Javier Castro-Rosas2, Enaim
Aìda Vargas-León3, Juan Hernandez-Avila4, Esmeralda Rangel-Vargas2, Carlos Alberto
Gómez-Aldapa2 and Reyna Nallely Falfan-Cortés2,5,*.
1Instituto Tecnológico de Tuxtepec, Av. Dr. Víctor Bravo Ahuja s/n. Col. 5 de Mayo, C. P. 68350, Tuxtepec,
2Área Académica de Química, ICBI-UAEH, Car, Pachuca-Tulancingo Km 4.5 Mineral de la Reforma, C.P.
42184, Hidalgo, México
3Instituto de Ciencias Agropecuarias, Rancho Universitario, Av. Universidad Km 1, Ex-Had, de Aquetzalpa
AP 32, Tulancingo de Bravo, C.P. 43600, Hidalgo, México
4Área Académica de Ciencias de la Tierra y Materiales, ICBI-UAEH, Car, Pachuca-Tulancingo Km 4.5
Mineral de la Reforma, C.P. 42184, Hidalgo, México
Abstract: The aim of this research was to describe some physical properties of Cucurbita ficifolia seeds and evaluate
the effect of defatting on C. ficifolia seed meal functional properties. Geometric diameter was 8.05 mm, arithmetic
diameter was 10.61 mm, sphericity was 45.36%, aspect ratio was 64.29%, surface area was 204.08 mm2, volume was
187.44 mm3, true density was 0.51 Kg/m3, porosity was 31.81% and hardness was 6.23 N. Defatted C. ficifolia seed
meal presented a content of protein (70.36 g/100 g) and carbohydrates (13.18 g/100 g). The defatted meal had higher
water absorption capacity (2.94 g H2O/g sample), water solubility capacity (34.08 %), oil absorption capacity (2.97 g oil /g
sample), emulsifying capacity (24.93%), foaming capacity (30.33%) and better foam stability (from 20 to 60 min) than the
whole meal. The high protein content of defatted seed meal, suggests its use as a natural alternative ingredient in
numerous food industry applications.
Keywords: Cucurbita ficifolia, Functional properties, Linear dimensions, Chemical composition, Defatted meal.
Pumpkin (Cucurbita ficifolia) is cultivated in Mexico
for its edible fruit . It is an annual monoecious plant,
which is grown primarily in the states of Mexico,
Hidalgo, Puebla and Veracruz. C. ficifolia is commonly
known as “chilacayote”, and its immature fruit is used
for preparing different dishes. The mature fruit of C.
ficifolia is used to make a traditional Candy . In the
states of Mexico (3,587.60 tons), Morelos (528.20 tons)
and Distrito Federal (68 tons), the annual production of
C. ficifolia are 4,183.80 tons and the harvested area is
185 hectares . Pumpkin seeds are an excellent
source of protein (25.2-37%) and oil (37.8-45.4%) [3,
4]. Seed kernels have been used as an additive in
some food dishes and several reports exist on the
nutritional value of pumpkin seed kernel proteins and
oils [4, 5]. Pumpkin seeds are usually a by-product
from pumpkin pulp processing at either artisanal or
large scale. It is estimated that seeds constitute 2.9%
*Address correspondence to this author at the Área Académica de Química.
ICBI-UAEH. Car. Pachuca-Tulancingo Km 4.5 Mineral de la Reforma, C.P.
42184, Hidalgo, México; Tel: +52 771 7172000 2518; Fax: +52 771 7172000
6502; E-mail: email@example.com
in weight of fresh fruit, while in dry basis accounted for
32%. Global demand for new protein sources has
focused mainly on oilseeds and their agro-industrial by-
products, defatted oil meals. Their protein content
makes pumpkin seeds a promising raw material in the
production of high-quality protein products for use as
nutritional supplements or functional agents in food
formulations, the main proteins in pumpkin seed
consist of storage salt-soluble globulins (cucurbitin), as
well as albumins, glutelins and prolamins [6-8].
However, no studies have been published on C. ficifolia
seed physical (linear and geometric) properties or the
functional properties of C. ficifolia seed meal. The
usefulness of seed flours in food would depend on their
protein functionality. Important protein-based functional
properties include protein solubility, water and oil
absorption, emulsion capacity, foaming capacity,
viscosity and gelation. Functional properties of
proteins, in general, are affected by various intrinsic
and extrinsic factors. Protein molecular structure and
size are important intrinsic factors, whereas extrinsic
factors include the method of protein extraction, pH,
ionic strength, the components in the food system [9-
10] and processing conditions. Functional and
28 International Journal of Food Processing Technology, 2016, Vol. 3, No. 1 Rodríguez-Miranda et al.
physicochemical properties depend on seed place of
origin, weather and harvest conditions. Physical
properties of seeds are necessary for the design of
equipment to handle, transport, process and store the
crop. Several varieties of pumpkin are grown in Mexico,
but as far as we know, no published studies address
the chemical composition, physical or functional
properties of any of these varieties. Therefore, the aim
of this research was to describe some physical
properties of Cucurbita ficifolia seeds as well as
evaluate the effect of defatting Cucurbita ficifolia seed
meal on chemical and functional properties.
2. MATERIALS AND METHODS
Pumpkins (Cucurbita ficifolia) were acquired from a
local market in the community of Pachuca, Hidalgo
State, Mexico. Ripe pumpkins were cut open, and the
seeds were removed. Seeds were manually dehulled
and cleaned and those with no physical damage were
2.1. Physical Properties
2.1.1. Linear Dimensions
Seed linear dimensions (Figure 1) were measured
according to Mpotokwane et al . One hundred (100)
seeds were selected from a handful taken randomly
from a container full of seeds. Using a Vernier caliper,
length (L), width (W) and thickness (T) of each selected
seed were measured to an accuracy of 0.001 mm.
These data were then used to calculate geometric
diameter, sphericity, arithmetic diameter, equivalent
diameter, volume, surface area and aspect ratio.
Figure 1: Linear measurement of Cucurbita ficifolia seeds,
where, L: length: W: width; T: thickness.
Geometric Diameter, Arithmetic Diameter, Sphericity,
Volume, Surface Area and Aspect Ratio
Seed geometric diameter (Dg), arithmetic diameter
(Da), and sphericity (Ø) were calculated using the
Where L = seed length, W = seed width and T = seed
thickness in mm. Volume (V) and Surface area (S in
mm2) were calculated with the equations , diameter
of the spherical part of the seed, mm (B):
Seed shape was further described via the aspect
ratio (AR) :
2.1.2. Thousand-Seed Weight
Thousand-seed weight (TSW) was measured
according to Mpotokwane et al . The mass of one
thousand seeds was measured with an electronic
balance (accuracy = 0.0001 g) in triplicate.
2.1.3. Bulk and True Density and Porosity
The bulk density is the ratio of the mass of the
sample to its container volume. It was measured by
weighing a filled measuring cylinder with known volume
and calculated as:
Where ρb, bulk density (kg/m3), m is mass (kg) of the
sample. The true density is defined as the ratio of mass
of the sample to its true volume .
Physical Propertie s of Cucurbita Ficifolia Seed International Journal of Food Processing Technology, 2016, Vol. 3, No. 1 29
Where ρt, true density (kg m-3), n is number of kernels
in the sample. Unit volume, Vu (cm3), of kernels was
determined based on the assumption that kernels are
similar to a scalene ellipsoid where L > W > T .
Porosity, ε (%), indicates the amount of pores in the
bulk material and it was calculated as :
The hardness of seeds was determined by
measuring the maximum force required to break the
seed samples using a Stable Micro system TA-XT2
texture analyzer (Stable Micro Systems, Ltd., Surrey,
UK). The results were expressed in newtons (N).
2.1.5. Raw Material Preparation
Seeds were manually dehulled with a nutcracker,
and undamaged seeds were selected for further
processing. These were ground in a coffee grinder
(Krupps Model GX4100) until the particles could pass
through a No. 30 mesh screen (0.59 mm, U.S.A.
standard test sieve ASTM E-11 Specification W.S.
Tyler, USA). The resulting meal was placed in sealed
polyethylene bags and stored at 4 ± 0.5 °C until use.
2.1.6. Meal Defatting
The seed meal was defatted according to standard
AOAC methods . Lipid (Method 948.22). Defatted
samples were dried at 50 °C (ED 115 Binder Oven)
overnight (~10- 12 h). They were screened through No.
30 (0.59 mm, U.S.A. standard test sieve ASTM E-11
Specification W.S. Tyler, USA) mesh, and then stored
at 4 ± 0.5 °C.
a. Chemical Composition
Proximate composition of the whole and defatted C.
ficifolia seed meals (WFSM and DFSM, respectively)
was determined in triplicate according to standard
AOAC methods : moisture (925.10); ash (942.05);
protein (960.52); and fat (948.22). Crude fiber was
determined by acid-alkaline digestion , and
carbohydrates by difference. Gross energy was
calculated following the methodology described by
Ekanayake et al .
2.3. Functional Properties
2.3.1. Water Absorption Capacity (WAC) and Water
Solubility Capacity (WSC)
Water absorption capacity (WAC) and water
solubility capacity (WSC) were determined according to
Anderson et al .
2.3.2. Oil Absorption Capacity (OAC) and
Emulsification Capacity (EC)
Oil absorption capacity (OAC) was measured
according to Beuchat . The OAC was expressed as
grams of retained oil per gram of sample.
Emulsification capacity was determined according to
Yasumatsu et al. .
2.3.3. Foaming Capacity and Foam Stability
Foaming capacity (FC) and foam stability (FS) were
also determined on WFSM and DFSM. Foaming
capacity was measured according to Coﬀman & García
. The results were expressed as percentage of
increase in volume. Foam volumes were recorded at
10, 15, 30, 45 and 60 min intervals to study the FS of
the samples .
2.3.4. Bulk Density (BD)
Flour samples were evaluated and bulk density was
determined as described by Joshi et al . Bulk
density was calculated as mass of sample per unit
volume of sample (g/cm3).
2.4. Statistical Analyses
Results were analyzed with a one-way analysis of
variance (ANOVA) and differences between the means
calculated using a least significant difference test with a
95% confidence level. All analyses were done with the
Statistica ver. 8.0 program StatSoft, Inc.
3. RESULTS AND DISCUSSION
3.1. Physical Properties
Table 1 shows the physical properties of Cucurbita
ficifolia seeds. The comparison of Cucurbita ficifolia
seed physical properties (L, W, T, Dg Ø and AR) to
other seeds as Ebony seed, Lentil seeds, Carob beans,
Canavalia cathartica seed, Castor seeds, Pistachio
kernel, Parkia speciosa seeds, Pistachio, Gruondnut,
and Cucurbit seeds were presented in the Table 2. The
value for true density was of 0.51 kg/m3 and the bulk
density of 0.50 kg/m3. Density characteristics are quite
useful in determining space requirements for design of
grain hoppers, grain storage facilities and grain-
conveying systems . Porosity is an important data
necessary to design the aeration systems during
storage. Higher the porosity, better the aeration and
water vapour diffusion during deep-bed drying .
Seed porosity is the most important attribute for
packing. It also affects resistance to airflow through
bulk seeds . The porosity found in pumpkin seeds
30 International Journal of Food Processing Technology, 2016, Vol. 3, No. 1 Rodríguez-Miranda et al.
(31.81%) is lower than reported for other seeds as
Jatropha curcas seed (34.6 - 43.3%), basil seed
(Ocimum basilicum) (67.20%), Canavalia cathartica
seed (44.57%), red clover seeds (Trifolium pratense L.)
(32.7%), and porosity of cucurbit seeds ranged from 39
to 55%, and was higher than the one of flax seeds
(Linum usitatissimum) (16.83%) [27, 33, 36-39].
Hardness is a key factor in the pressing process .
Hardness (6.23N) was smaller than that of basil seed
(Ocimum basilicum) (9.08 N), Pistachio nut (Pistacia
vera L.) (13.39-14.64 N), and sorghum kernels
(Sorghum bilcolour (L) Moench) (50-90 N) [29, 39, 40].
The correlation coefficients obtained between the main
dimensions and mass are given in Table 3. Width and
geometric mean diameter were positively and
significantly correlated (P < 0.01) with length. However,
length and thickness of the Cucurbita ficifolia seeds
were not significantly correlated with mass. In Table 3,
the correlation coefficients of the linear dimensions of
seed showed that L/W ratio is lower than L/T and L/M
ratios; meaning that the thickness of the seed is closely
related to its length, while the length and mass have a
3.2. Chemical Properties
The WFSM and DFSM differed (P < 0.05) in all the
measured chemical parameters (Table 4). This effect of
defatting on the different chemical parameters
coincides with that reported in other studies [4, 10, 41].
Energy content in the DFSM (1,395.01 kJ/100 g DM)
was lower than in the WFSM (2,556.63 kJ/100 g d.b.),
probably due to defatting since lipids provide more
energy per gram than proteins and carbohydrates
combined . Protein content in WFSM was of 35.25
g/100 g, these data are higher than the reported for
other selected seeds , but below the one reported
for seeds Cucurbita pepo (35.45 g /100 g)  and
ebony (38.51 g /100 g) . Lipids content in the
WFSM was lower than in macadamia (67.63 g/100 g)
 and higher than in jack bean (3.1 - 6.0 g/100 g)
, cowpea (2.77 g/100 g) , soybean (21.88 g/100
g) , ebony (28.16 g /100 g) , seinat (Cucumis
melo var. tibish) (31.13 g /100 g) , and Cucurbita
pepo (49.14 g/100 g) . Although the crude fat content
of the flour was low, it could be useful in improving
palatability of foods in which it is incorporated .
Crude fiber content in the WFSM was much lower than
reported for other seeds. The high ash content
indicates that it could be an important source of
minerals for consumers. Carbohydrate content in the
WFSM was lower than in jack bean (50.77 - 54.28
g/100 g) , cowpea (56.49 g/100 g) , ebony
(29.36 g /100 g)  and Cucurbita pepo (7.85 g/100 g)
. In the DFSM, protein content (Table 4) was higher
than in other defatted seeds [24, 41, 44-47]. According
to Bressani , higher level of protein content of seed
materials has nutritional significance, since a moderate
intake of these seeds will greatly increase the total
dietary protein intake of consumers. Its utilization as a
protein ingredient in the animal feeds will reduce the
over-dependence on the conventional protein
supplements, such as soybean and other common
legumes . The DFSM’s protein content makes it a
Table 1: Physical Properties of Cucurbita Ficifolia Seeds
Mean Val ue
Range of Values
10.04 - 20.06
2.13 - 2.88
Geometric diameter (Dg)
6.40 - 8.64
Arithmetic diameter (Da)
7.66 - 11.54
40.15 - 70.92
Aspect ratio (AR)
54.53 - 149.69
0.16 - 0.18
Surface area (S)
128.76 - 234.46
136.84 - 524.78
True density (ρt)
0.508 - 0.530
Bulk density (ρb)
0.47 - 0.53
29.74 - 35.45
4.53 - 8.42
Physical Propertie s of Cucurbita Ficifolia Seed International Journal of Food Processing Technology, 2016, Vol. 3, No. 1 31
potential ingredient for increasing the nutritional value
of new food products.
Table 4: Chemical Properties (Dry Basis) of Whole C.
Ficifolia Seed Meal and Defatted C. Ficifolia
Component (g/100 g)
Protein (N x 6.25)
35.25 ± 0.21a
70.36 ± 0.64b
49.89 ± 1.81a
0.00 ± 0.00b
3.74 ± 0.16a
4.67 ± 0.0.58b
5.91 ± 0.0.26a
11.80 ± 0.10b
5.20 ± 0.57a
13.18 ± 0.06b
(kJ/100 g DM)
2556.63 ± 41.08a
1395.01 ± 9.79b
Notes: Means ± standard deviation. Different letter superscripts in the same
row indicate significant difference (P < 0.05). DM = Dry matter. 1Obtained by
difference. WFSM = whole C. ficifolia seed meal. DFSM = defatted C. ficifolia
3.3. Functional Properties
The WFSM and DFSM differed (P < 0.05) in all the
six evaluated functional parameters (Table 5). Water
absorption capacity (WAC) was higher (P < 0.05) in the
DFSM (2.94 g H2O/g sample) than in the WFSM (1.40
g H2O/g sample), probably in response to the higher
availability of polar amino acids and lower fat content in
the DFSM. WAC is related to the hydrophilicity and
gelation capacity of biomacromolecules, such as starch
and protein, in flour . Some studies indicate that
WAC increases with defatting, since it promotes
protein-water interactions, which in turn depends on the
number and type of hydration sites, the
physicochemical environment (pH, solutes, protein
arrangement, temperature, solvents, surfactants,
carbohydrates, lipids, etc.) and system thermodynamic
properties [4, 23]. The DFSM WAC value was slightly
Table 2: Comparison of Cucurbita Ficifolia Seed Physical Properties with other Seeds
Notes: a This research. Other research [24 - 33]
Table 3: Ratios and Coefficient of Correlation (r) Values of Cucurbita Ficifolia Seed Dimensions
Mean Val ue
Range of Values
0.67 - 1.83
3.73 - 8.62
5.81 - 11.80
5.86 - 9.94
1.27 - 1.68
1.10 - 1.79
Notes: ** Significant difference (P < 0.01). L = Length; W = Windth; T = Thickness; M = mass; Da = Arithmetic diameter.
32 International Journal of Food Processing Technology, 2016, Vol. 3, No. 1 Rodríguez-Miranda et al.
higher than the 2.48 g water per g meal reported for a
mixture of DFSM (C. pepo and C. maxima) , but
below that reported for C. pepo water per g meal .
Table 5: Functional Properties of Whole C. Ficifolia
Seed Meal and Defatted Determined at 25 °C
Water absorption capacity -
WAC(g H2O/g sample)
1.40 ± 0.02a
2.94 ± 0.24b
Water solubility capacity -
10.09 ± 0.16a
34.08 ± 0.57b
Oil absorption capacity -
OAC(g oil/g sample)
1.54 ± 0.03a
2.97 ± 0.06b
Emulsification capacity- EC
22.00 ± 0.06a
24.93 ± 0.22b
Foaming capacity - FC (%)
19.17 ± 0.76a
30.33 ± 1.53b
Bulk density- BD (g/cm3)
0.50 ± 0.01a
0.31 ± 0.01b
Notes: Values represent the average of three replicates ± standard deviation.
Different letter superscripts in the same row indicate significant difference (p <
0.05). WFSM = Whole C. ficifolia seed meal; DFSM = Defatted C. ficifolia seed
Water solubility capacity (WSC) (Table 5) was
higher (P < 0.05) in the DFSM (34.08 %), probably due
to the presence of a greater quantity of water-soluble
proteins. Protein solubility is the most important
physicochemical and functional property because it
influences other properties directly affected by protein
concentration and solubility, such as foaming capacity,
emulsifying capacity and gel formation . The DFSM
value was higher than the reported for C. pepo seed
Oil absorption capacity (OAC) is an important
property in food formulations because oils improve the
flavor and mouth feel of foods . The OAC (Table 5)
was also higher (P < 0.05) in the DFSM (2.97 g oil/g
sample) than in the WFSM (1.54 g oil/g sample). This
was probably due to the exposure of a greater number
of nonpolar sites of the proteins present in the defatted
sample that can be bound to hydrocarbon oil units,
resulting in greater OAC. Oilseeds, with their high
OAC, may be better suited flours for confectionery
applications requiring oil emulsification .
Emulsifying capacity (EC) was also higher (P <
0.05) in the DFSM (Table 5). The emulsion activity
reflects the ability and capacity of a protein to aid in the
formation of an emulsion and it is related to the
protein’s ability to absorb to the interfacial area of oil
and water in an emulsion . The emulsion stability
normally reflects the ability of the proteins to impart
strength to an emulsion for resistance to stress and
changes, and it is therefore related to the consistency
of the interfacial area over a defined time period .
This may be due to the increase in protein hydrophobic
groups after defatting, which increases surface
adsorption forming a cohesive interphase film between
the oil and water . The DFSM EC values were
higher than reported for other legume meals . Its
higher EC highlights the DFSM’s potential applications
in milk substitutes and meat analogues, or any product
requiring good emulsion formation, such as sauces,
creams and fat analogues, among others.
Foaming capacity (FC) was higher (P < 0.05) in the
DFSM than in the WFSM. Defatting increased the FC
of the DFSM because this property is directly linked to
protein concentration, structure and solubility. FC and
stability generally depend on the interfacial film formed
by proteins, which maintains the air bubbles in
suspension and slows down the rate of coalescence
. Foaming properties are dependent on the proteins
and some other components, such as carbohydrates,
that are present in the flours . Foam stability (FS) is
the decrease in foam volume over time. This parameter
was higher (P < 0.05) in the DFSM than in WFSM at all
evaluated times (Figure 2). In WFSM, FS dropped by
half at 20 min. With the WFSP, FS dropped to 21% at
20 min. In both meals, FS remained stable from 45 to
Figure 2: Foam stability of whole C. ficifolia seed meal
(WFSM) and defatted C. ficifolia seed meal (DFSM) at
different time. Three replicates were taken for data analysis.
The bulk density (BD) is generally affected by the
particle size and it is very important in the
determination of a packaging or packaging system, and
in material handling . Bulk density (BD) is highly
dependent on particle size, which was why the WFSM
(0.50 g/cm3) had a higher (P < 0.05) BD than the
Physical Propertie s of Cucurbita Ficifolia Seed International Journal of Food Processing Technology, 2016, Vol. 3, No. 1 33
DFSM (0.31 g/cm3) (Table 5). The values obtained are
below those reported for Kabuli chickpea meal 0.571
g/cm3 , ebony seed meal 0.85 g/cm
3 , and
pumpkin seed meal 0.57 g/cm3 . Joshi  has
reported a decreased bulk density in the defatted seed
Least Gelation Concentration (LGC) was 14% (w/v)
with the WFSM and 8% with the DFSM. LGCs of the
full fat and defatted flours are comparable with the
LGCs of pumpkin seeds flour , ebony seed flour ,
wheat flour  and Chickpea, Peanut, Sesame, and
Hazelnut meals . This difference may be related to
the relative protein, carbohydrates and lipids quantities
in each meal. Defatting produced higher protein and
carbohydrate contents in the DFSM, explaining why a
lower concentration of this meal was needed for gel
formation. Protein concentration is vital to gel formation
and firmness, and a greater proportion of globular
proteins helps to improve this process . Higher
protein concentration improves gel firmness. Protein
denaturation and starch gelling can also influence
gelling properties . A decrease in LGC, upon
defatting, may help gel formation in the development of
low fat high protein products . The fact that the
DFSM formed gels at low concentrations suggests its
use in formulating cheese substitutes, or as an additive
to promote gel formation in food products.
Cucurbita ficifolia seed average dimensions were
17.88 mm length, 11.34 mm width and 2.59 mm
thickness. Geometric diameter was 8.05 mm,
Arithmetic diameter was 10.61 mm, sphericity was
45.36%, aspect ratio was 64.29%, surface area was
204.083 mm2, volume was 187.44 mm3, true density
was 0.51 Kg/m3, porosity was 31.81% and hardness
was 6.23 N. Thousand-seed weight was 0.22 Kg, of
which 0.17 Kg (74.90%) represented the kernel. These
data can be used to design post-harvest processing
equipment and seed quality control measures.
Defatting of the seeds increased protein and
carbohydrates proportions, consequently improving
functional properties. Defatted C. ficifolia seed meal
could have potential applications in compound flour
formulations, as a principal ingredient in bread and
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Received on 16-02-2016 Accepted on 04-03-2016 Published on 22-03-2016
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