How to Grow West Indian Pumpkins

(Cómo Sembrar la Calabaza de Puerto Rico)


West Indian Pumpkin is a round or oblong squash that is popular in the Caribbean, Central and South America.  The color of the skin can vary and can include green, orange and tan hues.  The flesh of the West Indian Pumpkin is firm and bright orange with a sweet flavor similar to butternut squash.  The Taíno Indians cultivated the pumpkins and were known to add pieces of pumpkin to the stewed beans to thicken the sauce.  In addition to adding pumpkin pieces to our stewed beans, I prepare pumpkin custard (flan), pumpkin fritters (barriguitas de viejas) and pumpkin soup.

When I moved back to the United States in the 1980’s, I missed my favorite pumpkin dishes because the Caribbean pumpkins were not sold at the Latin markets.  However, today you can purchase a whole pumpkin or pumpkin wedges at most Latin markets.  Fortunately, I decided to purchase some Puerto Rican pumpkin seeds to see if they would grow in the Midwest and after several attempts, I was able to harvest many Caribbean pumpkins throughout the years.

Let’s Start Learning How to Grow West Indian Pumpkins!

These are the Puerto Rican Pumpkin Seeds that I ordered at Amazon.

Always make sure the you have ample space when you plant the pumpkin seeds.  The vines of the pumpkin plant will start sprawling approximately 10 to 15 feet on top of your grass.

Let’s Start Planting the West Indian Pumpkin Seeds!

Cut a section of grass 10 X 10-inch square.

Dig approximately a ½-inch well.

Insert 2 Puerto Rican pumpkin seeds into the well.

Cover the Puerto Rican pumpkin seeds with soil.

Water the soil.

Enclosed the Area with a Wire Fence!

If you have rabbits running around your backyard, I would recommend to enclose the area with a wire fence.   The rabbits love to eat the tender young shoots that come up from the ground.  When the plant is 4 inches tall in approximately two weeks, the wire fence can then be removed.

The Various Stages of the West Indian Pumpkin Plants!

The seeds were planted two weeks ago for this pumpkin plant.  The plants should be watered at least twice a week and at the base of the plant – never on the leaves as this will cause mold.  However, if it rains, there is no need to water the plant.  

Note:  Check for squash bugs on back of the leaves.   Place a small cardboard on the grass close to the plant.  The squash bugs will hide under the cardboard.  Lift the cardboard and vacuum the bugs with a shop vac.

This West Indian Pumpkin plant is four weeks old. 


This West Indian Pumpkin plant is also four weeks old and started to flower – a bright yellow flower.

Harvesting a West Indian Pumpkin Several Years Ago!

Can you see the yellow-orange pumpkin on the ground to my left?  Look how the vines of the pumpkin plant are spreading on top of the grass!

I am cutting the stem from the pumpkin before lifting up the pumpkin!

Look how huge this pumpkin grew in our backyard in Northwest Indiana!  Click on the link if you are interested in Preparing and Packaging West Indian Pumpkin.

A actual picture taken of a West Indian Pumpkin wedge (Caribbean Pumpkin) in a local market in Puerto Rico. 

Click on the button below to watch my YouTube video on How to Grow West Indian Pumpkin (Caribbean Pumpkin)!



Category: Gardening, Recipes

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