Interested in Calabaza? UF/IFAS Scientists Laying Groundwork for Chefs, Growers

Clint Thompson Florida, pumpkin, Top Posts

UF/IFAS photo shows a calabaza.

By: Lourdes Rodriguez, 954-577-6363 office, 954-242-8439 mobile, rodriguezl@ufl.edu

HOMESTEAD, Fla. – A specialty pumpkin traditionally used in Caribbean, South and Central American dishes, has caught the eye of University of Florida scientist Geoffrey Meru.

Meru, a vegetable geneticist at the UF/IFAS Tropical Research and Education Center, is leading a multi-institutional project aimed at adding value to the calabaza commodity chain by eliminating barriers in seed and cropping systems, as well as laying a foundation for novel and lucrative products. The study will determine whether the calabaza provides the right combination of profit, wider consumer demand and usefulness for a variety of industries. Meru will look at the calabaza as the next pumpkin of choice for those who specialize in the brewing, food, agriculture, manufacturing and health industries.

“The calabaza is a nutritional powerhouse that is easy to grow almost pest free, and an excellent crop you can use in rotation with others,” said Meru. “Because it is adapted to Florida’s tropical climate with minimal irrigation requirements, we want to take a closer look for its desirable qualities as a sustainable Florida crop.”

With help from a two-year, nearly $400,000 U.S. Department of Agriculture grant, Meru will lead a team of UF/IFAS researchers in food science, human nutrition and community sciences.

They will study the risks and benefits of crop production, predict the market interest for consumption of the calabaza’s flesh and other lucrative products, determine the nutritional value of this specialty pumpkin, and develop conventional and organic-cropping systems that suppress weeds and improve soil. They’ll also determine the best cultivars for the Florida, Georgia and Puerto Rico markets.

The grant, in collaboration with the universities of Puerto Rico and Georgia, is aptly named “Specialty Pumpkin: Laying the Groundwork for an Emerging Crop and Lucrative Products.”

For more information, see UF/IFAS News.