Linda Hart is a licensed poultry farmer and entrepreneur who has started growing pumpkins on her Crazy Hart Farm in Fellsmere. Her pumpkins are heirloom Seminoles, one of the oldest varieties grown in Florida. “I started experimenting with the Seminoles for personal consumption and they have really taken off,” she says. She will likely have plenty to sell at the Oceanside Farmers Market on Ocean Drive this fall.
“The Seminole is very good-tasting – sweeter than other varieties of pumpkin – and it is an indigenous fruit that has been growing around here for hundreds of years. I think it is important to bring back the native foods of the area.”
Linda’s pumpkins grow on vines on the ground, but she says that Florida pioneers were surprised to see them climbing up trees where they picked the pumpkins high off the ground. “The Indians would girdle a tree with the vines to grow the pumpkins so they didn’t have to pick through any foliage to harvest the fruit.”
Linda is also experimenting with ways to cook her pumpkins. For instance, the flowered blooms of the fruit can be battered and deep fried. “Basically, pumpkins are simple to cook. Just cut them in half, scrape the seeds out and put them face down in a pan and bake them. If you want to be traditional, you can make pumpkin bread and fry it. This is what the Miccosukee and the Seminole Indians still do today for their powwows.”
In addition to their adaptability, pumpkins and other winter squashes have a long shelf life and will keep for months if stored in a cool, dry place between 55 degrees and 60 degrees.
Though winter squash is now plentiful, many cooks ignore this veggie’s edible pleasures.
DON’T SQUANDER THE SQUASH!
BY MARY BETH VALLAR
PHOTOGRAPHY BY DENISE RITCHIE