The Southern Agrarian

Southern Agrarianism and the culture of the Old South

Seminole Pumpkin Experiments

Experimentation is the key to successful gardening. What grows in your area? What part of your area is best for a specific variety? Because variety-X will grow in your USDA Plant Hardiness zone, does that mean that it will grow in your county? in your own garden? in different places in your yard?

On June 28, I planted some Seminole Pumpkin seeds in soil blocks. One week later, they were well-sprouted and had roots extending from the blocks. They were ready to plant. That is about the fastest seed-to-transplant time I have seen.

My objective is to be able to grow Seminole Pumpkin in marginal areas where my primary crops won’t grow. Seminole Pumpkin is a spreading vine that takes up a lot of room. On the other hand, it has some characteristics that make it an ideal plant for gardening when it counts – when you depend on what you can grow to feed your family 1:

  • The fruit can be picked and stored without refrigeration for almost a full year.
  • It was a mainstay of the Florida Indians and early settlers.
  • It will spread over the ground, cover fences, and climb trees.
  • Needs to be fertilized only at planting and requires no protection from insects.
  • Is excellent baked, steamed, or made into a pie.
  • The young fruit is delicious boiled and mashed.
  • The male flowers can be dipped in batter and fried as fritters.
  • It produces continually and roots at the nodes.

For this test, I planted groups of three plants in three different areas. They will be given a single dose of fertilizer and then water as needed. My goal is to find a place that I could plant Seminole Pumpkin and let it take over a large part of otherwise-unproductive land. Since this is an excellent subsistence crop that requires a large area, the ideal would be for it to grow over what is now bare areas and lawn grass.

This is quite late in the year to start Seminole Pumpkin, but it will suffice for this experiment. If this is successful, I will be planting them in the Spring.

Three plants with marker. These were planted in a semi-shaded area between a dogwood tree and an azalea. This is in the front yard in an area that has never been cultivated. The soil is generally moist and organic with lots of competing roots. pH level is probably acid, but has not been tested.

Three plants surrounded by a protective fence. These are planted in an area that previously housed chickens and was actively gardened up until about 8 years ago when nematode infestation made it unusable. The fence protects them from chickens since they still occasionally fly over the fence into this area. The soil is very loose sand.

Three plants with a marker at the edge of a garden area that currently has pineapple, banana, aloe, sweet potato, and New Zealand spinach. This is a newly gardened area that was covered with a mixture of mushroom compost and top soil. It is mostly a low-maintenance test area to see how plants do with only minimal care.

 

PDF Doc – “The Sturdy Seminole Pumpkin Provides Much Food with Little Effort”, by Julia F. Morton; Pages 137-142; Florida State Horticultural Society, 1975.

Notes:

  1. Florida State Horticultural Society, 1975, page137.

3 Comments

  1. Monte Poitevint

    July 5, 2012 at 10:04 am

    Stephen, several years ago, one of my neighbors gave my wife a large, squat, tan pumpkin he grows every year. It is an old, heirloom, Indian pumpkin that has been saved from extinction by those who plant it every year and pass the seed onto the next generation. I haven’t been able to discover anywhere you can buy the seed. In any case, my wife cleaned and cooked it, tossing the waste into the compost pile. The next spring we had two vines sprouting out of the compost that covered about 1/4 acre. We harvested more than 80 pumpkins off those two vines, some weighing 30 pounds. The following year I tried cultivating some in the field, but they didn’t do well. They love compost, however, and every year we get a yearly supply out of the compost pile. My wife bakes it and we freeze it back. I love pumpkin bread with pecans (which we also grow on our homestead). Thanks for the interesting article!

    • Stephen Clay McGehee

      July 5, 2012 at 10:18 am

      Thanks for the reply, Monte.

      I just took a look at the Southern Exposure Seed Exchange catalog (www.southernexposure.com) and they had photos of one called Tan Cheese that sound like a smaller version of what you’ve described. Those weigh 6 to 12 pounds. I hope you’re saving some of those seeds, as the heirloom varieties are a real treasure that is easily lost. You might want to consider contacting some of the heirloom seed exchanges and offer some of your seeds to help ensure that the variety doesn’t die out. As GMO crops become more prevalent, the heirlooms tend to be squeezed out. They have qualities that may not be fully appreciated or understood at this time, but may become incredibly valuable in the future.

      Heirloom varieties are an agrarian treasure. THANK YOU for helping preserve that treasure!

  2. Stephen Clay McGehee

    July 18, 2012 at 2:10 pm

    A brief update – it appears that rabbits found the group planted in the front yard. They just disappeared. The other two groups are doing very well though.

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