Thursday, September 30, 2010

Baby Seminole Pumpkins

One of my aspirations for my next life is to live on a pumpkin farm, some place where there are actually four distinct seasons and autumn is as glorious as I experienced it in October two years ago on a trip to KTD in the Catskills.

Pre-climate change, October was always my favorite month because that was when we Floridians could expect the first serious cold (or at least cooler) weather of the year. Nowadays, that season seems to have bumped up into November or beyond. But my love of autumn, of Halloween, and of pumpkins has only grown stronger over the years.

It was only recently, however, that I discovered that there are pumpkins that are native to Florida—Cucurbita moschata, the Seminole pumpkins, or chassa-howitska in the Creek (Native American) language, "hanging pumpkin."

My first introduction to the Seminole pumpkin came from the wonderful pumpkin bread served at the Florida Folk Festival held every year on Memorial Day weekend in White Springs. Mmmmm....

My second encounter came when I was working for the Florida Park Service and one of the rangers at Dudley Farm was growing these native squash. Until then, I had no idea that one could grow pumpkins in Florida, but evidently the chassa-howitskas are prolific farther south.

These are climbing pumpkins. Amy Goldman, in her beautiful book The Compleat Squash, relates how one vine covered four acres of a grapefruit grove with hundreds of pumpkins, and how "...John Bartram, the noted Philadelphia botanist, found it exceedingly curious in 1774 'to behold the wild Squash climbing over the lofty limbs of the trees; its yellow fruit, somewhat the size and figure of a large orange, pendant from the extremities of the limbs over the water.'" (p. 93)

We had tried growing Seminole pumpkins before, but always planted earlier in the summer and lost the plants to mildew and rot. This year, we are trying later in the summer, from some seeds saved from previous years.

Here (above) is the baby picture of our pumpkins that I took a few weeks ago.

Highly recommended for fellow pumpkin fans: The Compleat Squash: A Passionate Grower's Guide to Pumpkins, Squashes, and Gourds, by Amy Goldman, published by Artisan, New York.

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