Appalachia’s Indigenous Pumpkin
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I first read about Cherokee Tan pumpkins a few years ago; a variety of pumpkin grown by Cherokee Indians years before other pumpkin varieties were available in the mountains of Western North Carolina or even other areas of Appalachia. Although not truly native to North America, Cherokee Tan is a variety of pumpkin that is thought to have originated somewhere between central and South America.
In the family known as crookneck pumpkins(Curcurbita moschata), Cherokee Tan gives the appearance of an ornamental, with its small size and weight range; somewhere between 3 – 4 lbs. on average. However, with its bright, orange flesh and delicate aroma, one quickly figures out that this is an excellent pie pumpkin.
Also known for its excellent resistance to disease and insect pressure, Cherokee Tan has excellent heat resistance, stores well and is a prolific producer; often having 10-15 pumpkins per vine. In addition, its small size makes it easy to process, whether done in the oven or peeled and cooked on the stovetop.
When planting this variety, it’s usually best to start from seed, however, transplants can be used if you can find them. Seed can be planted about every 12” in the row and thinned to every 2’ once the plants emerge. Make sure to give plants ample space to run, as they will take up quite a bit of garden space.
Cherokee Tan pumpkins are harvested in the fall and require an average of 110 days to mature. Once mature, pumpkins can be harvested when they turn tan in color and the vines die back. Remove the pumpkins from the vines with a sharp knife or set of pruning shears. Once pumpkins are harvested, place them in a dry place in the sun for about two weeks to cure. It’s a good idea to store them off the ground, as the dampness from the ground may cause some pumpkins to rot during the curing process.
If you have further questions regarding Cherokee Tan pumpkins or other pumpkin varieties, please stop by or give us a call here at the Graham County Extension Center (828) 479-7979.