This is the latest in a series of posts that I’ve done about my favorite varieties of fruits, vegetables and herbs we grow at Happy Acres. To see my other Spotlights, and those from other garden bloggers, visit the Variety Spotlights page.
Everyone knows money doesn’t grow on trees, right? I remember my parents telling me that every time I asked for a raise in my weekly allowance. But what about pumpkins growing on trees? Early explorers to the area we now call Florida were amazed to find squash vines climbing up trees, with the yellow fruits hanging down from limbs high up in the air. The Seminole people native to that area would plant the pumpkin seeds at the base of a tree so the vines would go up the trunk, thus keeping the fruits high and dry off the ground. So yes, pumpkins really do grow on trees!
Today’s Spotlight is on an heirloom winter squash that bears the name of the Seminole people who grew it. Seminole is well adapted to the tropical climate of Southern Florida, since it tolerates heat, humidity, insects and diseases quite well. Summers here at Happy Acres aren’t quite that extreme, but it certainly gets hot and humid here. This year it was also wet, with higher than average rainfall during much of the summer months, and Seminole was our best producing winter squash. I didn’t lose a single fruit to rot, which is more than I can say for some of the others I grew. The vines also thrived right on up until the first killing frost, long after most all the other squashes were completely done for.
Given the fact that they will readily vine up a tree, Seminole pumpkins definitely need a lot of room to ramble. In her book The Compleat Squash, Amy Goldman describes the vigorous vines as “irrepressible,” and based on my experiences the last two years I would have to agree. This year I trained the vines to grow on the fencing that surrounds our main garden area, and they easily vined 15 to 20 feet from where they were planted. The fruits formed up off the ground, and that no doubt helped keep them dry and free from any rotting issues this year. In fact, the Creek word for them, “chassahowitska,” means “hanging pumpkin.”
The fruits start out green, and then as they mature slowly change to a tan color that is typical for the C. moschata squashes. The ones in the above photo turned completely tan after about a month in storage. And speaking of storage, the Seminole pumpkin has been a great keeper for me. The shape of the fruits is variable, with some having a teardrop shape and others being almost completely round. Most weighed in somewhere between two and three pounds each, with the largest this year weighing a tad over four pounds.
In the kitchen, the Seminole pumpkin has a sweet flavor with moist and fragrant orange flesh. Smaller ones can be cut in half and prepared like an acorn squash, scooping out the seeds, then roasting the pumpkin until tender and seasoning with a little butter and cinnamon. Larger ones can be used much like butternut squash, and after cooking the flesh can be used in pies, muffins and soups. I’m looking forward to trying some soon in my Maple Pumpkin Custard. It’s also been listed on the Slow Food USA Ark of Taste, joining other delicious and distinctive foods that are facing extinction.
I hope you have enjoyed this spotlight on an heirloom winter squash with an interesting history. Seeds for the Seminole Pumpkin are available in the U.S. from several sources, including Baker Creek, Fedco and the Southern Exposure Seed Exchange. I’ll be back soon with another variety.
I dearly wish I could grow squashes / pumpkins, but my garden is too shady and too small. I tried a couple of times, without success. So many of them are too vigorous for my small plot anyway – though I suppose I could try training one up a tree!
That looks like a wonderful variety of squash. I would love to grow it but I suspect that it would not like the cool and certainly not humid climate here. Foggy nights are probably not ideal conditions. But Moschata squashes generally do well here, so who knows, it might be worth a try.
They can take the heat, but I don’t know about cool conditions.
Such a pretty pumpkin hanging from the vine. Hmm, I have a metal carport that could be fun growing squashes on.
I was wondering how many squashes you got per vine, I actually might have seeds for this variety.
I got 4 or 5 per vine this year. I can just picture them hanging off a carport!
We must start using our squash. We just have Crown Prince.
That’s such a great back-story – As with most of the other veg I grew last year, I’ll probably not add any new squash varieties in 2016 as I want to retry the ones I grew last year giving them the proper care this time 🙂
Wish I had room to grow winter squashes but my garden is shrinking in size each year due to the neighbor’s trees.
What a terrific idea! In order to reduce problems with squash bugs, I was going to grow winter squash plants on the south side of my house. As it happens, there is a dead apple tree only about 5-6 feet tall just nearby the space I was going to use. Seems like I could train some small winter squash varieties up the tree!
I’m going to hunt around for some different squash varieties this year and I already had C. moschata variety on the list – what a brilliant orange.
Also that custard looks fabulous, I’m trying that one for sure.
We like trying new things too. Last year we only grown climbing French beans after always having grown dwarf French beans in the past. Now we will always grow the climbing varieties. Never too old to learn!