The Seminole pumpkin is a variety of Cucurbita moschata and is widely believed to be native to southern Florida.
Cucurbita moschata is thought to have its original native range from Central to South America. The Seminole pumpkin is actually a closer relative of a winter squash than a classic American Jack-o’-lantern pumpkin, but all are members of the family Cucrbitaceae. This endangered pear-shaped squash is thought to have once grown throughout the state of Florida, particularly along the banks of the Everglades. Seminole pumpkin has been grown by Native Americans we now collectively call Seminoles (the Creek, Miccosukee and Calusas) for hundreds of years. Prized for its flavor, it also became an important food source and was included in special tribal celebrations. Botanist John C. Gifford named the Seminole pumpkin one of the five plants “essential to Indians and early settlers of Florida.” Today, it remains one of the tastiest and easy to grow pumpkins for south Florida gardeners.
We are growing Seminole pumpkin for the first time this summer at the Edible Community Gardens Project. This is one of those rare annual food plants that can take the heat of summer, as well as high humidity, in stride. Seminole pumpkin is relatively disease resistant and pest and problem free, compared with other members of the Cucrbitaceae family. It bears up beautifully under both drought and wet conditions, thus an ideal plant for summer in Zone 10.
Seeds for Seminole pumpkin are relatively easy to find now from several south Florida sources. They germinate quickly and are very easy to grow. Plants take approximately 120 to 150 days from seed to harvest. We planted our seeds in May in anticipation of a harvest in September or October.
Seminole pumpkin needs lots of space and full sun to thrive and fruit. Beware that this is an invasive plant, and best kept to raised beds or trellises where it can be contained and confined. It can produce runners of 20 feet or longer. Similar to most cucurbits, Seminole pumpkin benefits from rich, well-draining soil and lots of compost.
The entire northwest corner of our garden is dedicated to Seminole pumpkin this summer. I hope you will take the opportunity to stop by and see it growing. In the fall, I look forward to enjoying some of this prized vegetable with all of you.
Wrote by : Julie Petrella Arch
Edible Community Gardens Project, Director
University of Florida, Master Gardener