Monday, September 25, 2017

End of the Seminole pumpkin season

What a bountiful crop! 

The 3 Seminole pumpkin vines took over the whole 18' x 5' bed. Wow. I'm holding a ripe and a green pumpkin--these babies weigh almost 5 pounds each. I got the feeling that if I stood for too long near one of its many growth points, that it would start to twine around my ankle. :-) 
The fruits matured quickly. Look at this:
A female flower with one of its pollinators. Note the other fruit in the background. Only 6 days later that same fruit has grown to 12 inches long. It eventually had a rounder bulb at the bottom, but it "only" grew another 2 or 3 inches in length.
This is the first year I've grown Seminole pumpkin (Cucurbita moschata) and what a nice surprise. I bought them from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange. Back at the  beginning of June I posted Squash family on the menu when we had lots of different members of the squash family doing well, but soon after that most of them faded with the heat of summer, but not these. They had just gotten started back then and grew even faster and more vigorously into the summer. The 3 vines took up the whole 5' x 18' bed and each day I walked the perimeter to direct new growth back into the bed. The skin on the fruit is thick so it withstands attacks from worms and from rotting, so there were no problems leaving them on the vine to ripen.

The last harvest on Sept. 1.

The flowers are 6" across and there are many more male flowers than female flowers--the ratio was probably around 5 to 1, but this leads to many many pollinators buzzing around so all the female flowers were fertilized and grew into full-sized fruits.

There were 2 different shapes--a squat, pumpkin shape and a  larger long-necked shape. I read that different shapes can grow on the same vine, but I did not try to verify this. The tangle of vines was too great.  The long-necked fruits weighed between 4 and 5 pounds and that's a lot of squash to use.

Native to South America

This vigorous squash is native to South America, but it had been traded northward by indigenous peoples up into Florida and was present before Europeans arrived. It is not considered native to Florida in its profile on The Atlas of Florida Plants. Even though presence of a plant before the Europeans is one test of nativeness, it's not in this case because it had a known history of importation and it never really established itself in natural areas according to Bruce Hansen one of the curators of the website. If you look at its widely scattered distribution, today in Florida, this has the mark of an introduced species rather than a natural population. I'm sure the indigenous peoples and later the Seminoles appreciated this heat loving squash.

Harvesting green or ripe

I harvested about half of the pumpkins while they were still green, which I used for soups, in salads, in pumpkin burgers, and for breads. The ripened fruits turned a dark, rich tan and the fruit at this point is sweeter and is more suitable to roasting (in the oven or on the grill), stir fries, pies, and other pumpkin-type recipes, but I also used ripe pumpkin in the soup and salads, as well. I used the grated fruit (both ripe and green) raw in various types of salads (pasta, potato, tossed, and tuna) where the fruit added bulk, texture, and a slight taste tone. I have frozen quite a number of 2-cup portions of grated pumpkin for future use in bread and other uses. I prepared seeds for eating from both green and ripened fruit--the ripe seeds are much better.

I baked 2 pie crusts and made these 2 excellent dishes. The pie before hurricane Irma and the quiche 5 days later--after we got power again.  (We do have a generator that plugs into a circuit breaker splitter so we had the refrigerator, lights, microwave, but not the stove.)

Seminole pumpkin pie

For the pie I chose a ripened pumpkin I just cooked the bottom part of the pumpkin and used the neck for other dishes including a pasta salad and the quiche (below). I also prepared the seeds.

It's Seminole pumpkin pie time!
Ingredients:
• 1 pre-baked pie crust
• The bottom half of a Seminole pumpkin, halved lengthwise and seeded
• 1/3 cup sugar, or to taste (As sweet as this was, I probably could have skipped the sugar.)
• 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
• 1-1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
• 1/2 tablespoon vanilla
• 1 cup nonfat plain yogurt
• 3 large eggs, beaten

Directions:
1. Microwave the pumpkin flesh-side down in a glass pan with 1/2" of water for 15 minutes or so. It should be soft.
2. Cool, then scoop out the squash and puree it in a food processor. You should end up with about 3-1/2 cups of puree.
3. Preheat the oven to 400°F. In a food processor or a large bowl, beat together the squash, sugar, spices, vanilla, yogurt until smooth. Taste for sweetness and spiciness, add more sugar and/or spices if needed. Then beat in the eggs. (The eggs are added last so the tasting does not include raw egg.)
4. Pour the filling into the baked pie shell (pour the excess into oven-proof dish for baked custard).
5. Set the pie on a cookie sheet to catch any spills. Bake 15 minutes then reduce heat to 325°F. Bake another 45 minutes to 1 hour. The pie is done when a knife inserted an inch or more in from the edge comes out nearly clean (the center will still be soft).

6. Cool at room temperature for at least 15 minutes. Chill if you are holding it more than a couple of hours. Best served at room temperature.

Seminole Pumpkin & Malabar Spinach Quiche

Pouring the egg mixture onto the layers of
ingredients for the Seminole pumpkin
& Malabar spinach quiche. 
Toward the end of summer, Malabar spinach is plentiful and serves quite well in this dish.

Ingredients:
  • 1 pre-baked pie crust
  • 1/2 cup Malabar spinach, chopped
  • 1/4 cup garlic chives, chopped
  • 4 oz can of sliced mushrooms, drained
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 medium onion chopped, about 3/4 cup
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup nonfat plain yogurt
  • 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup shredded cheese (maybe 1/2 Cheddar & 1/2 Mexican mix)
  • 2/3 cup grated Seminole pumpkin (picked green or fully ripened--the state of ripeness will change the taste, both are good)
  • Olive oil to pre-fry onions, mushrooms, garlic, garlic chives, and spinach
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • Fresh ground pepper, to taste
Directions:
Delicious!
  1. Prepare the pie crust before you start, even a day or two before is fine.
  2. Place onions, mushrooms, garlic in a pre-heated skillet coated with olive oil. Fry over medium heat until onions start to brown then add the garlic chives and Malabar spinach for only a minute or so. Reduce heat and add the wine to mixture to clear the glazed onions from the bottom. When the liquid has evaporated, remove from heat, and set aside.
  3. Preheat oven to 350°F. 
  4. Whisk together eggs, yogurt, and parmesan cheese until combined. Add fresh ground pepper. 
  5. Lay a thin layer of the shredded cheese in the pie crust, add the pumpkin, and then evenly spread the fried mixture on top. Add the rest of the shredded cheese. Pour the egg mixture on top. Poke the egg mixture with a fork so that it settles into the layers. Sprinkle more parmesan cheese on top.
  6. Bake the quiche until it is golden brown on top and the center is firm. Depending on your oven, this will take anywhere between 45 minutes and 1 hour. It's a good idea to place a cookie sheet under the pie to catch the drippings. Allow to cool for 5 to 10 minutes before slicing and serving.

And then suddenly they were gone...

The vines died back quite suddenly. The roots at the base of the 3 vines were filled with root knot nematode damage, but the roots that sprouted along the stems were not infested.
It was a surprise to see how fast these vigorous and bountiful vines died. It began just before hurricane Irma, but after the hurricane they were totally gone. We still have several pumpkins in a paper bag at the bottom of our pantry and people say they will keep a year because of their thick skins, but we have found so many uses for them that they will not last beyond Thanksgiving.

One of two new books to be released in Spring 2018

Growing food is good for our planet

In doing the research for "Climate-Wise Landscaping" one of the two books of mine that are coming out in Spring of 2018, I found a study that shows that every pound of food that you grow or obtain locally offsets up to 2 pounds of greenhouse gas emissions. I grew so many pounds of pounds of Seminole Pumpkins that the world is surely a better place now.

I hope you try growing this bountiful crop and stay tuned for news on my new books and my fall 2018 book tour.


Green Gardening Matters,
Ginny Stibolt

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