While many are familiar with the classic orange globes often carved into jack-o'-lanterns or used for classic pumpkin pies, there exists a lesser-known, yet equally enchanting variety: the Dickinson pumpkin.
This unique cultivar, prized for its sweet flesh and sturdy constitution, has long been the hidden gem of garden patches and kitchen tables.
Whether you're an avid gardener looking to diversify your pumpkin repertoire or simply curious about this unassuming squash, this guide is dedicated to unveiling the wonders of the Dickinson pumpkin.
Packed with essential gardening tips and accompanied by vivid pictures, we're about to embark on a journey through the world of this remarkable pumpkin variety.
What is a Dickinson Pumpkin?
A Dickinson pumpkin - member of the Cucurbita moschata family - is considered a pumpkin-like squash.
It usually grows between 10 and 30 lbs, but with the right conditions can grow larger.
It has tan-orange skin, and deeply sweet, dark orange flesh. This flesh is a favorite for pumpkin pie filling and is commonly used in commercial products.
Dickinson pumpkins are a wonderful addition to any garden. Keep reading for more details about this amazing plant and how to cultivate and use it.
Cucurbita moschata is made up of several types of squash and pumpkins, most notably the butternut squash and cheese pumpkins.
It was originally from Central and Northern South America from where it's made its way to North America over time.
In 1835, a cultivar of the plant was developed by Elijah Dickinson, and soon came to become one of the most valuable heirloom ‘pumpkin’ varieties available.
It is believed to be derived from the Kentucky Field Pumpkin, also known as Large Cheese Pumpkin.
The Dickinson pumpkin is a medium to large pumpkin-shaped squash with tan skin and oblong shape, which differentiates it from traditional pumpkins.
How to Grow Dickinson Pumpkins
When you decide to grow Dickinson pumpkins, you need to take their origins into considerations.
Since they originated in the Americas close to the equator, they naturally prefer long growing season with hot and humid temperatures and plenty of water.
They do not like the cold, and will not do well north of Zone 5.
Pumpkins and squash grow on widely spreading vines. They can be trellised, but the large fruit will need additional support like slings to keep the fruit from snapping off the vines.
Step-by-Step Instructions to Grow Dickinson Pumpkins
Dickinson Pumpkins, as with most squash and pumpkins, thrive in hot temperatures, so it is ideal to wait to plant until the temperature is at least 75 degrees on average.
Step #1 Preparing the Location
When looking for a location to plant Dickinson pumpkins, choose an area with plenty of full sun, and good, rich well-drained soil. Mix compost into the soil before you plant.
Pumpkins, as well as all squash, are heavy feeders, so they need soil with plenty of nutrition.
This is one of the reasons that the traditional planting trios of the “Three Sisters” work so well.
Made up of corn, squash or pumpkins, and runner beans, the corn provides a natural trellis for the beans, and the beans replace the nitrogen in the soil which provides nutrition for the squash.
Step #2 Planting
Create mounds of soil at least 24 inches in diameter and plant 3-4 seeds about 1 inch deep into the center of the mound.
It is easiest to sow directly in the soil, as these types of plants do not take long to germinate.
The vines need a lot of space, so if you are not trellising them, you need to leave at leave 50 feet between hills. Mounds help the soil warm quickly and assist with drainage.
Step #3 Caring for your Dickinson Pumpkins as they grow
You should see sprouts in 7 to 10 days, which will rapidly evolve into multi-leaved vines. Thin to 2-3 plants.
Dickinson pumpkins typically take 100 days to produce mature fruit from the time the plants emerge.
Be sure to keep the plants well- watered as they need the moisture and the heat to grow to maximum size. Mulching will help keep the soil moist as well as keep down weeds.
Watch for the vines to bloom. They will get large yellow flowers on them. These can be battered, fried and eaten, but you will not have pumpkins if you do that!
Once fertilized the plants will develop tiny squash. If you are growing on the ground instead of a trellis, you will need to put protection like newspaper under the growing fruit to keep it from touching the ground.
The moisture from the ground can cause spots or rot early.
Step #4 Harvesting
Let the fruit grow until the vines start to die off. This is the sign that the squash is ready to be harvested.
This will take place roughly around 100 days from the day that seed sprout.
Pest and Disease Control
Dickinson pumpkins are known for being very resistant to both common pests and disease, Especially the squash vine borer.
If you do see pests, like squash bugs or aphids, you can pick them off manually and throw them into a can of water to kill them.
You can use insecticidal soap, in the most diluted form available as it can damage squash leaves.
Another option for vine borers is the application of neem oil extract. Pesticide should be applied in the evening when flowers are closed so as not to impact pollinators.
Uses for Dickinson Pumpkins
Dickinson pumpkins are winter squash and as such can be stored in a cool, dark, dry location for up to 5 months.
In colonial times, people used to store pumpkins and squash under their beds, as they were likely to freeze in other types of storage.
Today, a dry basement or cellar would work just fine.
Dickinson squash are known for their firm, sweet flesh and are ideal for pumpkin-based recipes.
You can use it to make pumpkin bread, pumpkin brittle (from the seeds), pumpkin soup or the ever beloved pumpkin pie.
You can even can your own pumpkin pie filling for use on a cold late fall day when you are craving a sweet and savory goodie.
Check out these delicious recipes to try out for yourself:
You can also use them for decorative purposes, but their oblong shape often does not stand well on its own, and its thick flesh is not ideal for carving jack-o-lanterns.
Dickinson pumpkins really are a fantastic addition to the home garden, especially if you love baking in the fall as much as I do!
Who doesn't love a giant pumpkin-walnut muffin with cream cheese on a crisp autumn morning? That muffin is the ultimate payoff for planting these prolific squash!
For the Love of All Thing Pumpkin
While not an actual pumpkin, the Dickinson pumpkin is the flavor foundation that fuels our autumnal pumpkin addictions.
It is THE fruit to grow if you want to relish the delightful taste of pumpkin-y goodness all winter long.
Nurture your squash and be prepared to preserve a multitude of pumpkin, and still be able to share with friends and family!
To learn more about growing other pumpkin varieties, read here:
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