The Southern Agrarian

Southern Agrarianism and the culture of the Old South

Seminole Pumpkin Follow-up

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This is a followup to a post from July 4, 2012. I’ll start with the relevant text from the original post:

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 [2012], 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.

Follow up:

The 2012 planting did not do well at all. While the Seminole Pumpkin can do without fertilizer once it is well established, it needs a rich place to get off to a good start. Simply planting them in sand with a little fertilizer added will result in plants that probably aren’t going to die right away, but they won’t grow either. In my next post, I’ll show how I planted the 2013 crop of Seminole Pumpkin. The difference was incredible.

For this post, we’ll look at the long term storage properties of the Seminole Pumpkin.

The pumpkins were picked when fully ripe. They were washed off, then placed on shelves in our garage. Basically, they were stored at the same temperature and humidity as the outside air. Out of all the pumpkins that I harvested in 2012 and 2013, probably less than a half-dozen went bad. I would have a shelf full of pumpkins that looked like they were picked yesterday, and one that shriveled into an unidentifiable rotting mass. What starts the process, I have no idea.

We have cooked several of them, and they were good – not something that gourmet chefs will be anxious to use, but they have a good taste (very similar to a regular pumpkin or winter squash), are nutritious and satisfying, and they are easy to prepare. Since this year’s experiment has to do with how well they store, we didn’t want to eat up the test subjects. We’ll experiment with preparing the harvest from the 2014 crop.

Harvested in July and August 2013. Photo taken December 27, 2013.

Harvested in July and August 2013. Photo taken December 27, 2013.

Harvested in July or August 2013. Photo taken December 27, 2013. What caused this one to rot while those next to it are just fine? I have no idea.

Harvested in July or August 2013. Photo taken December 27, 2013. What caused this one to rot while those next to it are just fine? I have no idea.


Conclusions:

  1. Seminole Pumpkins require good rich organic soil to start off with. Once established, they can do OK with not much else.
  2. Long term storage in typical Florida temperatures and humidity is excellent. Some will rot, so it it important that they be stored with adequate air space between them and on something absorbent, like newspaper, in case they start to rot and leak.
  3. They are an excellent crop to grow as an emergency food source should refrigeration and other means of preserving food become unavailable.

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.

15 Comments

  1. Very interesting and informative! Thanks! I live in central Argentina and believe these would do well here. If I can obtain seeds, I’ll try them. We have a variety of butternut squash (“anco”) that does well here and also stores well, but variety is the spice of life, so…

    • Stephen Clay McGehee

      December 28, 2013 at 9:22 am

      Thank you for stopping by and commenting. I suspect that anco would be a close relative of the Seminole Pumpkin. Finding those seeds locally might be a bit of a problem. They were not readily available here until fairly recently. It wasn’t the sort of crop that many folks planted, so there wasn’t much of a demand for them. The first seeds I got were from my cousin who got them from who-knows-where. Several years ago, I found the seeds listed on-line and bought them that way. From that point on, I have been saving the seeds.

      Southern Exposure Seed Exchange has them, along with a “Larger Fruited” strain. I think I’ll try some of that new strain for the larger fruits.

  2. I’m on a search for the perfect winter squash for the southern plains – one that tolerates hot and dry weather and resists squash bugs. Mostly, I need one that is squash bug resistant. I’ve grown Seminole pumpkin once and looking back can honestly say it probably fit the bill better than any other variety I’ve grown. I’m going to be trying it again, probably next year. Looking forward to the 2013 report.

  3. Pennsylvania Dutchman

    January 5, 2014 at 2:05 pm

    Christian greetings from up North. I just discovered this blog. Here’s my contribution:

    The southeastern corner of Pennsylvania has up to 200 average frost free days, so it is possible to grow Tahitian Melon squash reliably every year (even cotton was grown here successfully, for a few years, during the War Between the States). Based on my experience I recommend trying the Tahitian squash, which is also a very rampant vine, very productive, a good keeper, very sweet and well-coloured, and much larger and much easier to prepare (because the neck is completely seedless, solid useable flesh, smooth skinned and very easy to peel) than Seminole appears to be. Tahitian is the same species as Seminole (curcurbita moschata) — as one can tell easily by the STEMS in the photo — and by the way, any moschata squash can be grown in the same garden with any squash of the curcurbita pepo species (such as the old warted yellow summer crookneck we also love) and the seeds can be saved from both squashes for planting next year, since moschata and pepo aren’t cross-compatible.

    Christian agrarianism is what we need much more of, both North and South. Our people/s ought to remain, or return to being, rooted and grounded in the right place.

    • Stephen Clay McGehee

      January 5, 2014 at 8:18 pm

      Pennsylvania Dutchman – good to hear from you, sir.

      Thanks for the info about not needing to worry about cross pollination – that is something that was on my list of things to check into. I haven’t heard of anyone around here using the “Doctor Martin” pole lima beans. For that matter, it’s been quite a while since I’ve known of anyone growing any kind of lima bean. I don’t know why though. I think the most popular beans grown around here are probably the Blue Lake and Kentucky Wonder varieties.

      You’re a tougher man than I am if you can eat raw okra, although I’ll have to say I’ve never tried it. It’s the “gel” or “slime” that turns so many folks off of eating okra. It often takes a lot of persuasion to get someone to try okra again if they haven’t had it either fried or in a gumbo – both methods eliminate the “slime” (by the tomato acid in gumbo and the frying process). When cooked right, fried okra is like eating popcorn – it’s hard to stop.

      I see the “agrarian” part of the phrase “Christian agrarianism” as the need for turning away from the corrosive and corrupting influences of the world – especially the world of today.

    • Though I don’t eat okra raw we do enjoy pickled okra. I haven’t grown as many lima beans as I should but am interested in the smaller, colored varieties. Southern Exposure Seed Exchange has an interesting variety. http://www.southernexposure.com/beans-lima-beans-butterbeans-c-3_5_65.html

      • Stephen Clay McGehee

        January 6, 2014 at 9:36 am

        Southern Exposure, along with Victory Seed Company, is where I order most of my seeds – unless I’ve been growing it a while and have my own seeds. I’m a big fan of saving seeds.

  4. Pennsylvania Dutchman

    January 5, 2014 at 2:16 pm

    Just one more comment: Does anyone in your area grow ‘Doctor Martin’ pole limas? They resemble ‘King of the Garden’ but an even larger bean and at least one more bean in the giant pods. Doctor Martin beans are very flat, and pale green, not white, when dry. There is nothing else like it.

    We like okra here, too. We grow purple and green varieties every year, since I was a child, and sometimes a white okra like White Velvet if I can still find the seed. I eat young okra raw while picking. I chew and swallow quickly before the ‘gel’ begins to form.

  5. Pennsylvania Dutchman

    January 7, 2014 at 12:51 am

    Re: saving seed and not having to worry about cross pollination in squash: The Pepo species (crooknecks, cymlings, scallops, zucchini, sphaghetti, straightnecks) and the Moschata species (Seminole, butternut, Tahitian melon) can’t cross with each other, but both of them can cross with the Maxima species (Big Max, hubbards, buttercups, etc.) — so it’s not possible to grow and save pure seed from more than two varieties (of two species) of squash in the same year, in the same locality, unless you cover some of the blossoms to prevent bees and other insects from carrying the pollen, and pollinate them by hand, to make pure seed. Watermelon, muskmelon and cucumbers are all separate species that can’t cross with each other, so we can grow and save seed from one variety of each in same year without having to cover and hand pollinate to keep them pure. Homegrown seed seems to germinate better and stays fresh longer than bought commercial seed, but when varieties get crossed, our saved seed is worthless. Tonight we’re having some of the coldest weather in years in Pennsylvania, down to minus five tonight, so there probably won’t be any good figs next year. When our figs freeze to the ground and start all over from the ground in spring, the first figs don’t start ripening until September, when the nights are getting long and cool, and figs are starchy instead of sweet in cool weather. But very cold weather is a blessing when it kills pests and diseases that would otherwise carry over to next year. ‘Below freezing’ is one of the best natural pest controls. I suppose you have Meyer lemons and other citrus in your gardens. We have one Meyer lemon tree and one Limequat (tropical lime crossed with kumquat to make it hardier) in big pots that we bring indoors for winter. We get about fifty to sixty large lemons and limes that are better than any citrus in the stores, but not worth all the effort to raise them in pots. I’ve never been any further south than the Carolinas, for brief visits many years ago, so I can only imagine what it would be like to grow these crops in a much warmer climate. I’ll probably visit your blog again from time to time, since you have good information and a Christian perspective.

  6. I am in Dewey Az., high desert, zone 7. We are hot and humid in August, up 100 degrees. We have scalding cold winds in May. So I had to start these in a row cover. This year (2014) was my first year growing the seminole. We have an actual plague of grasshoppers and squash bugs every year. And in the monsoon we get bad powdery mildew. I planted 5 seeds, the mice (another plague) ate 4. The fifth one came up and I got 2 dozen squash off one vine. The grasshoppers ignored it for about 2 monthes-then the only thing they ate was the flowers. The squash bugs never showed up! This massive vine filled a 10 by 30 space in my garden! Powdery mildew did set it back just a little, but it recovered w/i two weeks. The young fruit, when it is tennis ball size or slightly larger, is great fried with onions and cracked black pepper. I will be growing this every year now. The mature squash is very good too.

    • Stephen Clay McGehee

      November 21, 2014 at 8:40 am

      Thanks for the info, Krista. “Massive vine” pretty much describes the Seminole pumpkin – it will spread everywhere, but that is what makes it such a tough and prolific plant. It is able to put down roots over a wide area, so if it gets injured or nematodes get to the roots, the plant can keep on growing. I’ve never tried eating the small tennis-ball-sized fruit, but will have to give that a try next season. Thank you for the tip!

  7. Can you eat the leaves of the calabaza or Seminole pumpkin? Any suggestions on how to prepare them if you can. Also, do the seeds need any cold period if you save them yourself. Thanks.

    • Stephen Clay McGehee

      January 8, 2015 at 10:50 am

      I’m not aware of anyone who has eaten those leaves, but I know that there are a lot of cultures who eat the greens of plants like sweet potatoes that we Americans just don’t eat.

      I have never had any problem with the Seminole pumpkin seeds that I’ve saved, and I don’t do anything special. Keep in mind that they were grown by the Seminole Indians in South Florida where there just isn’t much cold weather. One thing that I’ve noted is that Seminole pumpkins need very fertile soil to get going. I’ve done some experiments where I planted seedlings in all sorts of places to see how they would do. If the soil isn’t rich and fertile (at least the spot where the seedling is planted), then the plant will not grow. It usually won’t die, but it just won’t grow.

  8. Here in Gainesville , Fl. I’ve had some success with the 2 Seminole pumpkins I planted last spring. They have a few pumpkins growing , very long vines and mostly male flowers. Should I pull them out now that it’s September, or keep them in place? Our winters are so mild we picked tomatoes into January. I cover some of the raised beds with frost cloth if a frost is predicted. I hate to pull out a plant that is still producing.

    • Stephen Clay McGehee

      September 17, 2020 at 9:45 pm

      I’d just leave them alone until the vines with fruit start to die back. On the other hand, much depends on what else you have in mind to do with that area. Here’s a mistake I made this year: I had a section planted in peanuts and cotton. Neither is being grown for anything other than just for the fun of it, and both take a long time to mature. That tied up that part of the garden (I should have just pulled them out). In the rest of the garden, I planted Sunn Hemp, and it’s now about 6′ tall and very thick – excellent cover crop! As soon as the weather cools down some, I’ll use the flail mower to chop it up, then I’ll till it into the soil, and follow that with some rye to do the same. I should have done that where the peanuts and cotton were, but didn’t, so that area will miss out on a lot of good organic matter being added to the soil, as well as the lowered nematode population from it.

      This next year is going to be focused on simply improving the soil. Several crops of Sunn Hemp when it warms up, and several crops of rye while it’s cool. I’ll do without anything in the garden other than the sweet potato patch – nothing else.

      By the way, I’m about a two hour drive from Gainesville, and I lived for a while in Newberry and Trenton. My father’s family moved to Newberry in 1921 from Alabama, and they’ve been farming there ever since. I owned a 120 acre farm in Newberry until earlier this year when I sold it to my brother. I know the area well.

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