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Native Seminole Pumpkin: Florida Heirloom Variety

Natural Times, April/May/June 2014

By Paul Rutkovsky

The Seminole Pumpkin is a Florida native heirloom variety that was cultivated and eaten by Seminole Indians before Florida was a state. It is an adaptive gourd that grows equally well in heat, wet or drought conditions.

In a small alley off Gaines Street in Tallahassee, FAMU student and extraordinary gardener Keta Browning, along with volunteers and art students from FSU, grew 20 or so Seminole pumpkins late last summer and into fall. The Seminole Pumpkin is amazingly simple to plant from seed and to nurture until harvesting time. Be forewarned that the pumpkin vines grow rapidly and can take over your garden. We had to cut vines back as they grew into the only pathway through the alley. Start planting in late March or April and throughout the summer. Harvest your pumpkins in 120 to 150 days, and store them in a cool dry place for up to a year. If you’re not inclined to plant the pumpkins, New Leaf Market Co-op will again offer the beautiful native pumpkin when the season arrives.

This gumbo was a hit at our harvest potluck. Save the seeds and dry them out, store in a dry location to plant the next year or roast them and lightly salt for a delicious snack.

Vegetarian Pumpkin Gumbo

1 Seminole pumpkin (small to medium size), washed and cut into chunks
5 carrots, cut into coins
3 stalks of celery, cut into small chunks
1 cup fresh kale, washed and roughly chopped
1 small onion, chopped
1 box low-sodium veggie broth
4 cloves of garlic, minced
2 teaspoons cumin
2 tablespoons ancho chile powder (temper spiciness according to your taste preferences)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
Salt and pepper to taste
Olive oil

Note that this gumbo recipe does not include okra. We did not have any fresh okra at the time but, if you can’t have gumbo without it, New Leaf often stocks locally grown okra during its season.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Place pumpkin on a baking sheet and toss with olive oil and sea salt. Roast for one hour, stirring and repositioning at around 30 minutes. Let cool slightly.

Heat a little bit of olive oil in a large soup pot over low heat. Add chopped onions and garlic to the oil, sauté for two-to-three minutes. Add carrots, celery, and kale, and sauté for two minutes. Add stock to pan, as well as approximately three cups of water. Turn the heat up to medium. Add chunks of pumpkin (skin can go in too), and spices. Reduce heat slightly and cover pot. Simmer for approximately one hour. Enjoy!

*Seminole pumpkins are such good climbers, in fact, that the Creek word for them, “chassahowitska,” means “hanging pumpkin.” The Creek, Miccosukee, and Calusa people are now collectively called the Seminoles.

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