What’s Growing On: Calabaza pumpkins

Published: Nov. 29, 2021 at 12:41 PM EST
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. (WCJB) - Pumpkins you typically find in a grocery store aren’t found too often growing in the state of Florida. One Florida-grown pumpkin variety you can find is the calabaza.

This varietal originates from very warm, tropical places like the Caribbean.

They may not look like an average ornamental pumpkin, but they are resistant to the harsh growing conditions in the tropics.

Doctor Geoffrey Meru, a researcher with UF IFAS, said the bright orange pumpkins that are used for carving can grow here, but it’s a challenge.

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“The varieties that are grown for the fall ornamental season can grow in Florida but the challenge of that is the pests and heat pressure in South Florida. Unless you’re growing pumpkins that are suitable for the Florida climate then you would not expect as much yield or size,” said Meru.

Meru is researching ways to use the calabaza pumpkin since they are not used for carving or decoration.

“There’s alternatives to use it in canning products. There’s a growing need in this niche market and that’s where our research is going towards in collaboration with researchers across the Southeast. We’re looking into new ways of using calabaza because it’s well adapted to this climate,” Meru explained.

Meru says these pumpkins are sought after for the taste and versatility in dishes.

Often times the calabaza pumpkin is sold already cut into chunks for stews, cakes, and even candies.

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