Here’s Why Pumpkins Could be Florida’s Next Cash Crop
A University of Florida researcher is developing varieties of pumpkin that can grow year-round in the state.
The pumpkins are being bred for high seed yield, superior texture and flavor, and the ability to grow in the hot and humid South Florida weather.
UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences assistant professor Geoffrey Meru says farmers can use the seed-oil pumpkins his team is developing to fill the demand for locally produced oil and seeds.
“At least 90 percent of that seed is imported. So, the goal for my program is to try out this type of specialty pumpkin in Florida and see how they do and create a niche crop for the market.”
Meru says local chefs and restaurants can use the calabaza-or Cuban pumpkin-they’re cultivating in traditional Latin American recipes.
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“There’s a trend now whereby consumers they want to know where their food is coming from and they want to buy from local growers. So, that will also give an advantage to our growers to grow these new niche crops.”
He says his team is currently halfway through the breeding process which means it will take them another three years to get seeds.
In the meantime, he’s passing out the seeds of a European seed-oil pumpkin and a native calabaza called a Seminole pumpkin for local growers to try.
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