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.