Seminole Pumpkin -- New Strain Available

Okiedawn OK Zone 7December 20, 2013

The Back Story: A couple of years ago, Carol (Soonergrandmom) planted commercially-purchased seeds of Seminole Pumpkin, an heirloom winter squash originally grown in what is now Florida by the Seminole indians centuries ago. Her plants yielded extra-large fruit that looked similar to Seminole but were much longer. Even allowing for the fact that there is some shape and size variation within the Seminole pumpkin seed line, these were far beyond the sizes of Seminole pumpkins normally seen.

Now: While flipping through the newly-arrived 2014 catalog from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange, I noticed that one of their new offerings for the coming growing season is a new strain of Seminole Pumpkin that produces larger fruit than the strain so many of us have grown in the past.

Carol, I thought of you and your gigantic Seminole pumpkins as soon as I saw this new listing in the catalog.


Here is a link that might be useful: Seminole Larger Fruited Pumpkin listing

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Interesting. Well mine was bigger, but it didn't look like that picture either.

    Bookmark   December 20, 2013 at 9:38PM
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Interesting! These are the ones that are immune to squash bugs, right? What do they taste like? They look kinda like butternut to me, but a different shape.


    Bookmark   December 20, 2013 at 10:24PM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7

Carol, I know it doesn't look like yours, but I'm still not sure yours was Seminole, even though it grew all over the place like Seminole. Because Seminole comes in various shapes and sizes and even color variations, we know it is unstable. (hee hee, like some people we know, perhaps) The fact that other people are getting different shapes and sizes from yours but that also are larger than the standard Seminole pumpkins makes me wonder if a big batch of seed raised somewhere and sold commercially might have crossed with a standard butternut or some other C. moschata.

Shelley, I won't say they are immune to the diseases spread by squash bugs, but I'd say they are 99% immune. However, they have solid stems which largely prevents the squash vine borer grubs from tunneling through the stems and killing them, and that is a trait shared by other squash in the C. moschata family. Seminoles are in the same family as butternuts but I like their flavor better and they store forever, forever, forever. I have some in my garden shed that were harvested in the late fall of 2012 and they still are in good shape. The longer they sit in dry storage, the sweet they get. Since I have a lot more stored in the garage from the last harvest of November 2013, I've been feeding the last few from 2013 to the deer. I just slice them up and toss the slices or chunks on the ground for the deer shortly before sunset, and the deer are out there eating them practically before I walk 100' back to the house. Because our garden is large and the harvest generally is bountiful, I usually an put up enough food to feed us all year and have plenty left over to feed the wildlife. It is one of the joys of gardening here. I've got a bunch of deer who are spoiled now, and expect to have cucumbers all summer and winter squash all fall and winter.

The Seminole pumpkins taste like your typical winter squash/pumpkin and you can use them in any recipe for pumpkin or winter squash. The pies they make are superb, but they also are great simply baked in the oven, or made into squash soup or chowder. Most, if not all, canned pumpkin sold in the USA is not from the traditional orange Halloween type jack-o-lantern is actually a winter squash. To clarify it further, pumpkins actually are winter squash, but the pumpkins used as Halloween and autumn decorations don't have the flavor and texture of the other winter squash. I wouldn't eat anything from an orange Halloween pumpkin even if someone paid me to eat it. They are stringy and poorly flavored compared to "real" winter squash.

Seminole (and this is true of all the good varieties of winter squash) gets sweeter the longer it is stored since the starches convert to sugars, and its shell is so hard that it easily stores a year or longer. I've had some store for 18-20 months under normal household, garage or shed conditions. I have to use my biggest kitchen knife to slice them, and there are days I think it would be easier to cut them with a chainsaw. We have a chainsaw, but I've never actually gone so far as to bring it inside to cut up a Seminole pumpkin.

The Seminole pumpkins are vigorous growers, as is typical of all C. moschata varieties. I let them run wild, siting them where they can eventually move in and fill in spaces left vacant by the harvest of earlier crops, like corn. I also like to grow them on the garden fence. This year, in the new back garden, my Seminole vines ran 30 to 40' on the sandy side of the garden and even on the uphill dry clay area they ran 15-20' on very little water. I harvest them all summer most years, and generally get roughly 40-60 just from the very last harvest before a killing freeze. Even when harvested fairly small and dark green, they still turn their usual buff color and ripen while in storage. I've even harvested a month after the plants have frozen and those hard-shelled Seminoles had no cold damage inside. It is one of my favorite things to grow because of its reliability. You also can harvest them only a day to three days after they flower, and the young, small Seminoles make a great summer squash when harvested that young and tender.


    Bookmark   December 20, 2013 at 10:44PM
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Thank you, Dawn - I always learn so much from your posts! I think this is a must grow for me this year. Squash bugs make it just about impossible for me to grow the regular summer squash, so if I can harvest some little Seminole ones to use like summer squash as well, that would be great! Maybe I can trellis them along the back fence and they can just go round and round my little yard lol! :)

I have been trying more winter squash this fall and some of them are really good. Butternut is my favorite so it sounds like I would really like the Seminoles too. Winter squash is such a versatile food (and very healthy too!) I had no idea they kept that well so that's another plus.

Thanks again for all the great info!


    Bookmark   December 20, 2013 at 11:13PM
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I probably won't grow Seminole any time soon. But it would be really easy to fall to the temptation. I often recommend the variety to local people who want to start gardening. In my mind that family of squash (c. moschata) is the way to go. The varieties, within that family, which are specially noted for thriving in our conditions, are AWESOME!

This year I have to grow out Warsaw Buff Pie Pumpkin. My seed is getting old. But my wife and are are both of the opinion that we MUST always grow Old Timey Cornfield Pumpkin, because of its reliability. So, I will be hand pollinating ;)

Tahlequah, OK

    Bookmark   December 21, 2013 at 8:52AM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7

Shelley, You're welcome. I was thinking of your back fence when I mentioned that mine climb the fencing. You might have to regularly redirect the vines to keep them from creeping into your potager-style garden and taking over the whole thing, but that is pretty easy to do.

Squash bugs are a huge pain in the neck to deal with and some years they are just so awful. Rather than deal with growing squash under hoops, I usually just happily harvest my squash until the bugs spread a disease to the plants that kills them, and then I just start harvesting some C. moschata types very young as summer squash. The main difference between the summer squash and winter squash we eat is merely that the summer squash are harvested very young and the winter squash are harvested at full maturity. So, any winter squash becomes a summer squash if you harvest it just a couple of days after the flower is pollinated. You also can harvest and eat squash blossoms too, and since Seminole flowers and fruits so prolifically, that makes them even more of a multi-tasking plant.

I second what George said about C. moschata types thriving in our climate. It might help to think of them as what they are--tropical plants. Because they thrive in tropical areas, they tolerate extreme heat, extreme humidity and heavy rainfall. Extreme to Exceptional Drought might slow them down a little if you aren't irrigating but the plants still continue to grow and set fruit. In the summer of 2011, mine stopped flowering for a few weeks when our high temperatures were consistently over 110 and as high as 116, but once we cooled down and had highs under 110, and in particular, under 105, they resumed flowering and setting fruit. In the decade or so that I've grown Seminole, that's the only summer it got hot enough to stop Seminole from blooming and setting fruit. C. moschata types are true garden workhorses and I don't know if a person could kill one if they tried. Lots of us here in OK grow different C. moschata types for use as both winter squash/pumpkins and summer squash.

A few of the squash you regularly hear us mention that you might not realize are C. moschata include the ones George mentioned (Old Timey Cornfield Pumpkin, Warsaw Buff Pie Pumpkin), Seminole, Zuchetta/Tromboncino, Tahitian Melon (not a melon----a very elongated butternut type of winter squash), Long Island Cheese and other similar tan cheese pumpkins, and Waltham Butternut (and all other true butternut squash varieties). Many of them are a buff color instead of orange and that is one more reason to like them.

For our first 6 to 8 years here, the squash vine borers didn't find us and I grew tons and tons of squash of all kinds----often about 30 varieties per year. I had the most amazing time growing them. Then the squash vine borers found us and I gradually gave up growing most C. pepo and C. maxima types because the squash vine borers made it so hard. I still grow a couple of C. argyrosperma (formerly C. mixta) types every now and then, like green-striped cushaw or Cochiti Pueblo, because they are more disease- and pest-tolerant than the C. pepo and C. maximas I used to grow. Green-striped cushaw ranks right up there with Seminole pumpkin, although I have occasionally lost it to squash vine borers although not often.

George, I've always felt like anyone can succeed with C. moschata types, and have told some of my friends (kinda playfully but kinda seriously) "if you can't grow C. moschata plants successfully, you should give up gardening". They have so many wonderful qualities and tolerate everything our climate, weather, soils and pests throw at them.

I'm all in a gardening mood now and it is a little too early to start seeds, I suppose. Rain has been falling all night, mostly slowly but steadily, but with occasional rounds of heavier rain, thunder and lightning. Nothing gets me more in the mood to garden than having actual raindrops falling from the sky.


    Bookmark   December 21, 2013 at 9:56AM
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