In the land of squash, as in the land of men, you should never trust appearances. My favorite squashes look like they are straight out of the museum of horrors! And yet… what marvels! Bring on the warts, deformities and tints of deathly pallor. Long live weird…and delicious squashes!
Blue Hubbard: Frankenstein Squash
This one looks like the mythical monster with its stretched extremities and its bumpy flesh, of an uncertain verdigris. It is the favorite of many gardeners, namely because of its very long shelf life. Of all the squashes saved for winter, this is the very last to be plunged into the cauldrons. Beneath its hideous beastly exterior, hides a bright orange flesh with a slight taste of nutmeg. A delight for the discerning palate of expert squash tasters.
Legend has it that this squash made the crossing by boat between the West Indies and Massachusetts in 1854. A certain Miss Hubbard was involved in the adventure, but her contribution remains unclear.
It’s a huge squash that can weigh up to 40 pounds, but usually in the garden it’ll stick to half that weight. Mature fruits can be obtained after 110 days of cultivation.
Turk’s Turban: the Falsely Grafted
At first glance, one could easily be led to believe that this squash is actually two different squashes grafted together in their center, as would be the small grafted cactus (Gymnocalycium spp.). But it’s not.
It’s also called Aladdin’s turban or the Iroquois pumpkin. We can trace the origins of the Turk’s Turban to the West Indies, around the beginning of the 17th century. After transplanting to the garden, wait 95 days before harvesting. This makes it a good strain for more northern climates. Its orange flesh is slightly sweet. Because the skin is thick, it can be hollowed out to serve soup in it. It’s not uncommon to find it in major grocery stores.
North Georgia Candy Roaster: An Orange Banana?
I initially wanted to praise the merits of the ‘Pink Banana’ squash, because you don’t see a pink banana every day! But I chose one of its close cousin, the ‘Candy Roaster’ which is similar to it in every way, except for the little green star that ends the fruit.
It is also an excellent storage squash. Depending on the seed source, it’s sometimes smaller in size than ‘Pink Banana’, at other times, just as big. This heirloom variety is grown by the Cherokee Nation and is believed to be a descendant of the ‘Pink Banana’ squash. As its name suggests, it’s a good squash to roast in the oven.
Marina Di Chioggia: the Bumpy One
Some will call it a monster or a hideous thing. With all its bumps, you could even say it’s the Shar-Pei of squash! Popularized in the Italian city of Chioggia, south of Venice, at the end of the 17th century, this ancient variety is actually a curious variant of the ‘Turk’s Turban’. It was then appreciated as a winter vegetable, since it can be stored quite easily for 6 months. Rather sweet in flavor, it’s a favorite for stuffing ravioli. You can even make gnocchi with it!
Rouge Vif d’Étampes: the Fake Pumpkin
We often see them piled up in the mountains of pumpkins at fall markets and yet we recognize them at first glance. Firstly, because it’s a flattened squash with broad ribs and secondly because it has a beautiful dark orange, almost scarlet color, which stands out from the paler orange of pumpkins. It really attracts attention.
It’s an old variety, dating back to the early 1800s, originating in the town of Etampes, not far from Paris, in France. The author Vilmorin cited it as the most popular squash in all of Paris! It was first offered in America through the Burpee catalog in 1883.
It’s a squash that I appreciate for its savory flesh. They make excellent soups. Easy to grow, you can harvest between two and four fruits after 105 days of cultivation. It is also one of the squashes that keeps the longest in cold storage. I can sometimes cook them as late as March. And what a beauty!
Interesting fact that I hadn’t noticed when I made my selection, I discovered at the same time as you that my favorite squashes are all winter squashes which have a very good storage potential. Perhaps it’s because I see them over a longer period of the year that they have managed to tattoo a place on my heart. And in my case, love is blind! However, I’ll quickly mention two other squashes that I particularly like, the ‘Delicata’ and the ‘Red Cury’ type squash. It’s up t you to discover them! Always eager to try new things, I am very curious to know about your favorite squashes too.