Seminole Pumpkins light

Cucurbita muschata: Seminole Edible

Unlike watermelons which are from Africa, pumpkins and their kin are North American. When Panfilo de Narvaez was on an expedition in 1528 near what is now Tallahassee, Fla., he saw Seminole Pumpkins under cultivation. They still grow in the wild in many states, Florida north to Pennsylvania.

Let me quote Dr. Julia Morton, the larger-than-life grand dame of edible and poisonous plants in the southeastern US:

“A mainstay of Florida Indians and early settlers, the Seminole pumpkin is botanically identified as a form of Cucurbita moschata Poir., the species embracing the Cushaw or winter Crookneck squashes. It will spread over the ground, drape a fence or climb trees; needs to be fertilized only at planting time; requires no protection from insects. The fruit, variable in form and size, is hard-shelled when mature and keeps at room temperature for months, is excellent baked, steamed or made into pie. The Indians sliced, sun-dried and stored surplus pumpkins. Very young, tender fruits are delicious boiled and mashed; the male flowers excellent dipped in batter and fried as fritters. Thus, the vine produces three totally different vegetables. This is an ideal crop for the home gardener. The portion of the vine which has borne will die back but vigorous runners, which root at the nodes, will keep on growing, flowering and fruiting, yielding a continuous supply.”

The indians not only cleared land for agriculture but they took advantage of the Seminole Pumpkin, which is a vigorous climber. They would plant it as the base of a dead oak tree and let the vine climb the tree and fruit off the ground. The plant would then grow all over the hammock reseeding itself. They were, actually, more ingenious than that. A hammock is a hardwood island in a swampy area. They would girdle the trees on the inner part of the island killing them but turning the inner part into a small field protected by a wind break and prying eyes. Getting the pumpkins down was no issue with a lot of young braves wanting to prove themselves. Uninjured, a Seminole Pumpkin will store for several months even in hot weather if it has good ventilation.

The pumpkin is round, lightly ribbed, around three pounds with tan skin or mottled. The sweet flesh is deep orange and dry. Highly productive, it is resistant to insects and disease. It still grows in remote areas. It is actually closer related to butternut and calabaza than the common Halloween pumpkin.

The botanical name, Cucubita moschata (kew-KUR-bi-ta MOSS-kuh-tuh) means Musk-scented Bottle Gourd. Moschata is also where we get the word “musk” from. Cucubita was what the Romans called the bottle gourd.

Green Deane’s “Itemized” Plant Profile

IDENTIFICATION: Vine, soft-hairy, creeping, leaves ovate or nearly round or sometimes triangularly lobed, toothed, six inches to a foot long, soft, limp. Flowers funnel-shaped, crinkly, yellow, five lobes, three to four inches wide. Fruit comes in many forms, round, oblate, pear-shaped, short-necked, ribbed, orange when ripe with orange-yellow flesh, central cavity more or less filled with soft, fibrous pulp and flat, elliptic, white seeds, to three quarters of an inch long.

More colorful Seminole Pumpkins

TIME OF YEAR: Fall and winter

ENVIRONMENT: Hammocks, everglades, abandoned camps

METHOD OF PREPARATION: Numerous: Boiled or baked, used as a vegetable, dried and ground into a flour for bread, young shoots and leaves cooked as greens, flowers with pistils removed cooked and eaten. They can also be stuffed. Seeds edible, can be roasted or hulled and ground into a gruel.

 

 

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{ 25 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Gabriel Perez July 25, 2012 at 15:29

How long does it take until the crop is ready?

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2 Green Deane July 25, 2012 at 22:03

Less than 120 days.

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3 teri October 23, 2012 at 13:40

I live between zones 9a and 9b – very hot and humid. I have been unable to grow cukes and squash because of powdery mildew. Would I have better luck with seminole pumpkins?

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4 TropicBob November 7, 2012 at 20:49

you should have better luck growing this. You should also try Burr Gherkins (in place of cucumbers) and chayote.

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5 Judy November 20, 2012 at 09:39

Where can I find the seeds for the Seminole pumpkins?

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6 Kay November 20, 2012 at 21:31

Me too, where can I find the seeds please?

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7 Kay November 20, 2012 at 21:47

Which spelling is accurate for the Seminole pumpkin? Curcurbita Muschata or Curcurbita Moschata? Or are they interchangeable? Would love to have a source for the seeds regardless of it’s scientific name ;).

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8 Green Deane November 21, 2012 at 06:23

with an O, Moschata.

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9 Kay November 20, 2012 at 21:56
10 Kim Northrop November 24, 2012 at 12:56

You can get them from Echo Farm in North Fort Myers also. http://www.echonet.org/content/SeedBank/561

I’m in Sarasota and I tried them this summer. Planted in March? May? Grew like crazy but almost all the fruits got end blossom fruit rot so I started eating the flowers (not fried, in tortillas with beans, etc.) The one pumpkin I did get this summer was at the front edge of my yard where it got a good breeze and open spaces. I’ve now got three more coming along (Nov) so the productivity gets a little better once the humidity drops. I’ll try them along the west and more open edge of my yard next year. There are a few things that grow like crazy in the heat–Boniato (Cuban sweet potato) is one. You can get slips from Echo Farms or email me :) I plant ‘em in March. Yardlong beans are also a good summer producer :)

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11 barb May 6, 2013 at 18:56

Could these be grown in NY state read about them in BMW magazine for growing within a three sisters garden.

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12 Green Deane May 7, 2013 at 09:30

In the summer, yes.

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13 Natalie May 7, 2013 at 11:35

Hi there! I was recently given a Seminole pumpkin from my grandmother, who has been growing them for years and had no idea what they were. I found your blog post when I started researching them, and I really enjoyed it! I did a blog post about Seminole pumpkins, and linked back here to your site. Just thought I’d let you know in case you were interested! Thanks for the great information!

Best,
Natalie

http://oystersandpearls.net/seminole-pumpkin/

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14 MQ May 7, 2013 at 14:47

Baker Creek heirloom seeds also sells these seeds. I was very glad to read this post since I just ordered some Seminole pumpkin seeds. Are these self-seeding annuals (in the south) or are they perennial?

http://www.rareseeds.com

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15 Dean Sutton October 27, 2013 at 17:12

I recieved 3 pumpkins that I eventually identified as at least majority related to this last year while down in lower Georgia. Gave one away, baked one, and saved the largest one which is sitting near me as of this date. Saved seeds from last year and this spring potted the seeds in 3″ peat pot and Miricale grow early April here central Missouri. Took awhile before they came up but when they did, all came up evenly and healthy. Set out 6 of them in mid May, eventually blossoms came and came and came (not thick, tho). Tried hand pollinating; saw no results. Squash bees started coming around in early morning; mid July about to rip them out! Reached for my hoe, saw a small pumpkin. Okay, let them live. Have harvested 12 so far 4# up to about 8#. Accidentally chopped some vines and 4 or 5. right no, there are 2 dark green 7 – 8 # pumpkins down there yet and before the hard freeze other nite, 5 blossoms.
A bit bland flavor-wise, after baking, but sliced the meat off the rind and fried it with bit of sugar and cinnamon… um, good.

Definitely long storage keepers.

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16 Ld November 13, 2013 at 22:46

I live in hot dry central Texas. Planted the seeds in a 3 sisters garden back in April. All seeds came up.. Hot & dry watered them a lot!! Non wod them did anything.. But then came July.. One plant survived.. It spread, retooled & grew like crazy.. Thought I only had 2 pumpkins about October.. Then I just let it go.. it’s mid November we’ve had our first freeze I seen a bunch more out there the last few weeks.. They were all green.. Freeze killed the vine.. I went and dug through the weeds. Have about 6-8 more pumpkins different size. I’ve read you can eat these green as baby squash so I’m looki g for a recipe.. Deffinetly growing these next July again.. Seeds were from baker creek. Plants did magnificent after july(our winter squah planting date)

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17 carol hoffman December 1, 2013 at 15:11

Two very well respected websites state that the Cucurbita moschata is introduced in Florida and the United States. However, these pumpkins were already being grown in Florida when the first Spanish explorers came. So why are they considered non-natives? I thought the differentiation was about before or after European contact.

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18 Green Deane December 1, 2013 at 17:07

First, botanists can disagree. Second, they could have been introduced from South America or the like by traveling natives.

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19 Linda April 14, 2014 at 12:08

This little fellow just popped up on my property in Loxahatchee, Fl.; probably from bird droppings. I didn’t know what it was, so I left it alone to see what would develop. I was surprised to see it was a melon like object, and 1st thought it was going to be a Halloween type pumpkin, but the bright green fruit started turning yellow, while it was way too small to be a Halloween pumpkin, so here I am trying to identify what type of pumpkin I have growing on my property. It looks very much like the Seminole pumpkin. I am going to try baking one like a butternut squash and will steam one to see how they turn out. The vine runs like crazy. I never thought about elevating it, but since the melons are so small, I think I will give it a try.

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20 Brian Shea January 11, 2014 at 02:21

I just heard about Seminole pumpkins yesterday! I’m really interested in growing them. Will they grow in South Florida? From what I’ve heard about them it seems that they probably will. If so, when should they be planted? I’m also confused because it seems like they are perennial in frost free climates. Or are they just a long lived annual?

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21 Green Deane January 12, 2014 at 16:45

You plant them in the spring when the weather has turned good for the rest of the year.

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22 Mary Mac May 9, 2014 at 16:08

I was just given some more Seminole pumpkin seeds–my plants last year never produced any fruit and I was told you have to help them pollinate. I live in South Florida zone 10–it’s now the first part of May—when should I plant them as I’d hate to lose them again–I really want to try them as food, as I love squash and pumpkin

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23 Green Deane May 9, 2014 at 18:38

Plant them now. We are way past any possible cold weather in your area.

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24 Bobbi May 20, 2014 at 08:38

I just planted a Seminole pumpkin under my live oak tree. Is this a good idea? It’s not a huge tree. Probably about 5 years old. It is in good health. I another if the pumpkin will kill it.

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25 Green Deane May 20, 2014 at 18:34

I think the oak is made of study stuff and the Seminole Pumpkin is of little threat.

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