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Blue and green pumpkins

Results of the 2020 Hastings Pumpkin Variety Trial

Pumpkins are making a comeback!

It’s been many years since we have offered demonstrations on pumpkin varieties at UF/IFAS HAEC (Hastings Agriculture and Extension Center). A few years ago, our local ag inspector and I were having a chat about the native Seminole pumpkin, which some refer to as a squash. We were discussing how this species is tough and has such an excellent shelf life. He shared a pumpkin with me, which I turned into pies and saved the seeds.

Seminole pumpkins

Seminole pumpkins

Since planting them, they have returned every summer in my yard, trellising over fallen logs and palmetto fronds. I was amazed how easily this crop survived the summer heat, was tolerant of pest pressures, and tasted amazing! I later learned that Native tribes in south Florida would allow the vines to crawl up Live Oak trees. Several of our local small and large farms felt like there was a market for heirloom pumpkins, whether it be for canned puree in grocery stores, ornamental sales for agritourism or even pumpkin beer for our local microbreweries!

HAEC team harvesting pumpkins

HAEC team harvesting pumpkins

When the call for grant proposals through HAEC came about, I thought it would be interesting to compare the heirloom Seminole seeds to our UF bred ‘La Estrella’ calabaza. Then our new director, Christian Christensen came on board, and gave me the inspiration to compare our “hardcore” native species to cultivated species. The goal is to assess the yield of each variety, while comparing tolerance to pest pressures, with the hypothesis being that La Estrella and Seminole will knock the others out of the park! While also being of the greatest interest to consumers. Our HAEC team planted 6 rows with the following varieties:

‘La Estrella’
‘Seminole’
‘Jarrahdale’
‘Marina di Chioggia’
‘Baby Pam’
‘Jill-Be-Little’

Planted on July 15, 2020, we began harvesting on October 1st. We planned to harvest between day 95 and 100, but started much sooner than expected. While there is little published literature on pumpkin production in Northeast Florida to compare our results to, we are still very satisfied with the yield. The team and I harvested every marketable pumpkin within 300′ of each 430′ long row with the following results:

Variety of pumpkins

Variety of pumpkins

Pumpkin variety display

Pumpkin variety display

Variety Yield by fruit count Yield by weight (lbs) Yield per acre
per 300′ long row per 300′ long row
La Estrella 296 1310 15720
Seminole 565 975 11700
Jarrahdale 178 1497 17964
Marina Di Chioggia 115 817 9804
Baby Pam 202 237 2844
Jill-Be-Little 669 230 2760

Contact Prissy Fletcher for more information about growing pumpkins in Northeast Florida!