Origin:Elmer, NJ (and Bolivia & the Delmarva Peninsula)
Improvement status:Breeding population
Seeds per packet:~15
Germination tested 12/2020: 95%
Life cycle: Annual
This beautiful squash is both exciting and something of a disappointment. It's disappointing only because it's not the squash we hoped it would be when we planted the seeds that produced it. But it's exciting because it might just be something new and great — or at least it might become those things.
Here's the story: Our first year in Elmer (2014) we planted seeds from the USDA for a squash variety known as 'Jemi' in the language of the Esse Ejja people, a small indigenous group living in the Bolivian Amazon. The USDA noted that it is traditionally grown on sand-bars in the river. The seeds from the government did not germinate well, and we ended up with just one plant that produced a fruit. Unfortunately, it had escaped our notice (we had actually given up on them), so that one fruit was not hand-pollinated. We were growing a handful of other Cucurbita maxima squash that year, including lots of 'Nanticoke' squash not far from this one. We saved the seeds from that single squash with the label 'Jemi' O.P. ("open pollinated"). This year Nate figured they might be nearing the end of their viability, so we planted a bunch of them and decided this would be the one C. maxima squash at the farm this year.
As they grew, it was exciting that they seemed to be vigorous and quite uniform-looking. But once the fruit started ripening, it was clear they just didn't look right. 'Jemi' fruit are round, almost like a globe, or round and tall (based on the photos in the USDA database, they're shaped like either Bert or Ernie's heads — for all you Sesame Street fans out there). They're also grey-blue-green in color, with just the occasional orange splotch. Our whole patch ultimately looked more or less like the ones in the photos here. Beautiful pink pumpkins, some slightly more orange, not too big, not too small. They seem to have the long-keeping ability of the Nanticoke, and they definitely have its ability to thrive despite vine borer damage. Of course, this was an F1 hybrid, which explains the uniformity, and the seeds we're selling are the F2 generation, so there is likely to be a very high degree of diversity in this population. Given the diversity of the 'Nanticoke' landrace which we assume is original pollen parent, this F2 generation could have even more diversity. We're excited to see what forms pop out and what new varieties you all breed from these seeds over the next decade or more. We'll be trying ourselves, mainly to get a stable line that resembles this F1 population — and if we succeed, we've got dibs on the name 'Pink Panther'!