Growing Seminole pumpkins in the food forest


Yesterday you got to see one of my home-grown calabazas. Today I have a picture of a little Seminole pumpkin growing in the front-yard food forest:

Yes, I am on a squash and pumpkin kick.

Last fall around the time of my post on the 2014 sweet potato harvest from my food forest, Andi and I were talking back and forth and alternating between growing sweet potatoes and squash as ground cover in a food forest system. This spring I planted multiple squash seeds in fertilized pits out front and let them go – they’re just starting to produce now.

However, a lot of the sweet potatoes have come back as well. No matter how hard I try, I never seem to dig all the roots out and I invariably have plenty of them coming up the next year. We’ll see how they do. Usually the pest load gets to be too high when they grow in the same spot more than once or twice.

If you haven’t checked out the Seminole Pumpkin Project page I created, go check it out here.

If you have photos and details on growing Seminole pumpkins in your gardens, let me know – I’d love to post what you’re growing. This is a wonderful Florida heritage and I want to document the varieties as best as I can for the sake of anyone interested in studying or growing this incredible heirloom.


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Beautiful winter squash/Kobocha pumpkins


My friend Asim at Swallowtail Farm hooked me up with a pair of lovely winter squash last week.

grow winter squash for beautiful harvests

Grow winter squash and enjoy beautiful harvests

According to Asim, these are “kobocha” pumpkins, which are a type of Cucurbita maxima.

In case you don’t know your squash varieties in Latin, there are 4 main edible species of squash that have been developed into a baffling array of cultivars. They are C. maxima, C. mixta (also known as C. argyrosperma), C. moschata and C. pepo.

The best varieties for the heat and humidity of the south are C. moschata types. Those include a lot of tropical pumpkins, butternut squash and Seminole pumpkins.

These kobocha pumpkins had a mild, nutty flavor that wasn’t as rich as my Seminole pumpkins. I saved the seeds and will be growing some next year, however, since they won’t cross with my other types and because they look cool.

My tropical pumpkin/squash breeding experiment is all comprised of C. moschata types, which means I can grow C. pepo or C. maximas in the same beds without worrying about undesirable cross-pollination.

Let’s take a second look at these cool kobochas:

I don’t know what it is, but I really, really like growing squashes. I think it’s because of their incredible beauty.

If you want to grow winter squash in Florida or the southeast, the easiest types to start with are Seminole pumpkins, cheese types, or any variety of butternuts.

Also, if you’re interested in squash as a survival crop, you should REALLY pick up a copy of Carol Deppe’s book The Resilient Gardener.

And if you really want to go down the squash rabbit hole, check out this video:

I watched it twice.

Yes, I am nuts.


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Recipe: Christmas Seminole Pumpkin Bread

The following post was contributed by Mrs. Survival Gardener.
seminole pumpkin bread on a table

Seminole pumpkin bread

Probably the most common use of pumpkin in America is to put it in pie.At least that’s what I’ve been hearing a lot lately.Imagine you’ve had a bumper crop of pumpkins and you’d like to share your bounty with some friends.  “Hmmm. Thanks for the, um, pumpkin. I guess I’ll make pie.”

Beyond that, we seem to be at a sort of loss with what to do with it.

Don’t get me wrong, I know there are pumpkin lattes at the coffee joint around the corner, but most people aren’t going to look at a fresh pumpkin and think mmmmmm, coffee! 

So I thought I’d help you out, fellow bumper crop gardeners. The following recipe for pumpkin bread is as heirloom as the pumpkins we’re going to use.
It comes from my fantastic mother-in-law, who makes it every year around Christmas and gives it away to friends and family. This year, since we’re always looking for new ways to grow what we eat and eat what we grow, I thought I’d use one of our beautiful Seminole pumpkins to make Seminole pumpkin bread.

If you have a stash of Seminole pumpkins, like we do, choose the most deep orange one you can find.

Like sweet potatoes, Seminole pumpkins turn sweeter after you pick them and let them sit on the shelf for a little while (like a couple of weeks). A good indicator of this, I believe though you’d have to ask David for corroboration, is its deep orange color. When you first pick them they taste more vegetable-y. Later, when they’re more orange, the starches have converted to sugar and they are sweeter.

Cut the pumpkin in half width-wise and scrape out the seeds and stringy bits. Save those seeds! They can either be roasted for a delicious snack, or planted in the spring.

Win, win.

Then roast the pumpkin halves.

Once they’re roasted, scoop out the innards into a bowl…

…and mash them.

Next, grease and flour three loaf pans.

Sift together some flour, baking soda, nutmeg, salt and cinnamon.

Ok, I didn’t technically sift.

I just mixed the dry ingredients around in the mixer a bit. The bread will still turn out well.

Now put some butter, water, mashed pumpkin, vanilla, and eggs in a bowl…

…and beat them.

At this point you’re going to want to taste it and decide how much sugar to put in. Canned pumpkin, obviously, has a set amount of sugar in it. The Seminole pumpkins will very in natural sweetness, but generally they’re about twice as sweet as boring old pie pumpkins from the store.

The original recipe from my wonderful mother-in-law calls for 3 c. of sugar.

I recommend you add the sugar 1/4 to 1/2 c. at a time, mix and then taste. Think to yourself, Do I really want this any sweeter?

If the answer is “no” leave it where it is. Mix well.

Now pour the batter into the pans…

…and bake!

This is so very much worth the effort, which really isn’t that big a deal.

The kids ate the Seminole pumpkin bread straight. and still warm from the oven. I put some butter on it. Cream cheese would also be amazing.

Really, it’s just so very good it doesn’t matter how you eat it.


By the time I got to staging a final picture, we had plowed through most of a loaf. Actually, I’m not sure David got to eat any of this.

Hmmm, I guess that means I’ll have to make more.

Thanks, Mom for the recipe!

Here’s the more traditional format for the recipe.

Seminole Pumpkin Bread

Preparing the pumpkin

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Cut pumpkin in half width wise and scoop out seeds and stringy bits. Bake for 1 hour or until very soft when poked with a knife.

Scoop out the pumpkin and mash.

Baking the bread

Lower the oven temperature to 350 degrees.

Grease and flour three loaf pans.

Sift together:

3 1/3 c. flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. nutmeg
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon

Beat together:

1 c. softened butter
2/3 c. water
2 c. cooked, mashed pumpkin
1 tsp. vanilla
4 eggs

Add sugar, 1/4 to 1/2 c. at a time, to taste; mixing after each addition. Up to 3 c.

Mix dry ingredients into wet ingredients.

Pour batter into loaf pans and bake until done (approximate 1 – 1.5 hours)

Enjoy, and don’t forget to save some for your hard-working, gardening husband!


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Runaway Pumpkin Success and a Seminole Pumpkin Soup Recipe


Remember this post?

We’re getting paid for all the work we DIDN’T do.

The vine (or two or three… I can’t tell how many are there) that popped up in our compost heap has been producing like mad.

Seriously. These pumpkins are like a microcosm of God’s grace. We did nothing to receive them… and they’re overflowing in abundance.

Thus far I’ve totaled up 100lbs of pumpkin and there are probably 5 or more fruit still forming out there.

Meanwhile, the vines I planted on purpose have mostly died ignominious deaths thanks to boring insects.

So – what ARE these pumpkins? They’re definitely Seminole pumpkins. We threw seeds in the compost last fall and they’ve plunged right through the summer without a hint of powdery mildew, shrugging off the heat, and going nuts.

They also taste very good, much like a butternut with a little lighter flesh.

It’s exciting to have success, even when undeserved.

These will soon be Seminole pumpkin soup!

Rachel created a delicious soup and brought it to church yesterday. The kids love it too, which is an extra bonus.

A Recipe for Seminole Pumpkin Soup

5 cups of cooked pumpkin
4 cups of chicken or vegetable stock
1 dash nutmeg
1/2 cup cream (or coconut milk for an exotic twist)
Puree cooked pumpkin, then add to pot with chicken stock. Bring to a simmer. 
Turn off the heat. Use an immersion blender for a really smooth texture (optional).
Add cream and nutmeg. Salt to taste.
Serves 8.

A Seminole pumpkin interior


My wife sent me this photo when she was making pumpkin pie with the caption “too pretty!”

seminole pumpkin interior

We’re definitely growing Seminole pumpkins again, though I’ll probably take a one-year hiatus and grow Rick’s pumpkins in the spring so we can save seeds without crossing varieties.

Actually, I wouldn’t be surprised if the two types are closely related genetically already. They have similar coloration and both are able to tolerate the extreme humidity and heat of Florida. Perhaps the Amish got seeds from the natives at some far-off point in the past…

The Seminole pumpkin interior on our variety is very easy to scoop… but not all Seminole pumpkins we’ve tried have been that way.

UPDATE: Check out the new Seminole Pumpkin Project page!

Vandalized Seminole Pumpkin

Okay… this is really, really weird. I saw that one of the Seminole pumpkin I had growing on the fence was ready to be harvested, so I cut it down… only to see that the side of it facing the street had two crudely carved “eyes” in it…
seminole pumpkin jack-o-lantern

Seminole pumpkin Jack-o-lantern?

First thing I did was ask my kids if anyone had been testing out one of their pocket knives in a naughty manner.
And in fact, my children are probably too small to make such deep gouges. One of them suggested the neighbor’s cat might have done it. (It’s a black cat, incidentally, so there is some logic there. Heh.)
Anyhow, what kind of a goofball would half-carve a Jack o’ Lantern out of someone else’s pumpkin while it was still on the vine? We’ve got a quiet, pretty, friendly and rather boring neighborhood.
Perhaps too boring…

Florida Gardening in August


How can you go about Florida gardening in August?

Well, first of all.. you just have to remember… it’s hot out.

This is the time of year when most gardens are laid to rest here in Florida – but not ours. The first round of yard-long beans are tapering out and the second round is starting to come in… the figs are ripening intermittently and the watermelons are about ready. We’ve got lots of southern peas about to ripen, plus the mung beans are getting close to being ready. We’re also picking occasional West Indian Gherkins. They don’t seem to have any disease or pest issues, though productivity has been low thus far. The flavor is excellent – like a lemony cucumber.

Most of the beds of greens played out long ago… but we’ve got moringa, sweet potato leaves and Florida Cranberry for salads, plus comfrey and lots of herbs. We’re set on cooked greens, since I’ve got chaya planted all over the front yard food forest. I’ve also got velvet beans and Seminole pumpkins climbing up the trees.

Our beds are mostly filled with beans and sweet potatoes right now, though I’ve also got a nice bed of boniato kicking along next to the sugar cane patch.

And speaking of sugar cane, isn’t that looking good? That’s the same patch I wrote about here. Amongst my tropical plants, we’ve got naranjillas ripening right now; unfortunately, this variety was from an ornamental plant nursery and the fruit are worthlessly seedy.

We’ve also got guavas that are just starting to form.

And don’t let me forget grapes!


We also pulled a perfect, rich yellow fruit off one of our pineapple plants a couple days ago.
There’s nothing like homegrown pineapples.
In a few years, we’ll be picking tons of fruit during the summer and fall. We’re not there yet, but we’re also not suffering; there’s plenty to do and plenty to eat, even in the heat.
And, speaking of things to do, it’s time to start prepping for fall’s garden…