Cucurbita moschata: Calabaza, Caribbean pumpkin, West Indian pumpkin, Giraumon, Joumou
Basics: Plant after all danger of frost has passed, spaced 4 feet apart in rows 6 feet apart, in full sun. 90 days. Leaves mottled white and green, vigorous vining habit, small speckled green and white winter squash similar in flavor and texture to butternut squash. Harvest at first frost. Ripens to a mottled pink/tan, good keeper. Edible seeds, orange flesh traditional ingredient for Soup Joumou.
In Haiti, this butternut squash relative is called Joumou, named for Soup Joumou, a dish of great national and cultural importance. It is the plant and the dish that commemorates the Haitian Revolution of 1804, and marks the independence of the Haitian people from slavery. It is a reminder of the struggle for freedom that must be renewed year after year.
The Joumou squash is an ancient cultivar, grown throughout the Caribbean, native to Latin America, and introduced into Haitian cooking via indigenous people of the region. Seminole, a variation of this squash, grows wild from Florida through the Carolinas. Cucurbita moschata vines can be extremely vigorous, and the leaves are striking in appearance, with their signature white mottling.
Plant in full sun, with plenty of room for vines. Gardeners with limited space trim the main runners to encourage more side growth, to contain the vine’s footprint, or plant it where it can take over, and thrive while other plants fade as autumn approaches. Giraumon or Geraumon Martinique squash are on the smaller side of the Caribbean pumpkin spectrum, like the Seminole squash. They are excellent keepers, and mature from green and white stripes to a pretty pink-tan. Treat like other winter squash and allow them to mature on the vine until just before the first frost.
See below for more on Soup Joumou and cooking instructions. Cushaw, a squash similar in appearance, has crossed paths with this Cucurbita moschata throughout Latin America and the Southern U.S. and is often interchanged with its sweeter cousin in recipes for soup and pie- another common name in the U.S. is Sweet Potato pumpkin. Food historian Michael Twitty has highlighted the importance of these squash in Southern African American culinary history. Cushaw and moschata varieties have often been intercropped to encourage pollination.
A very in-depth and easy to follow traditional version of Soup Joumou on Food.com: Soup Joumou or Soup Giraumon. Haitians often use spaghetti instead of dumplings.
A recipe from Dady Chery, with a good history.
Cook with your Caribbean pumpkin the way you would a butternut squash– roasted, in soup, sauteed– the possibilities are as varied as the squash itself!