The thirteen month old squash was cooked today. It sliced open a lot easier than some of my other squash do. The skin and rind were thin and soft. Once cut open I saw no sign of decay or deterioration. It also smelled like squash, which is to say it didn’t small bad. Now it was time to cook it. I put the squash pieces in a covered pan with just a little water and baked them at 375 degrees for 40 minutes. A fork passed easily through the pieces so I knew they were done.
So how does a thirteen month old squash taste? I wasn’t all that impressed. It was rather bland not sweet or nutty like the blue and red-orange ones that my vines usually produce. There are a some reasons why this is. This squash may just be not tasty. I get a few like that every year and they are usually green skinned like this one was originally. Or during the long months of storage some of the chemicals that contribute to good flavors were lost. After all the squash fruit is alive and it probably does metabolize to some extent in a process of self-digestion. Still, I am saving the seeds and will set up a growing site for them. Next year they can grow in isolation from all the other squash and I can watch what they do. Maybe this squash was an anomaly but by growing the seeds next year I’ll be able to know more about it. In the meantime, I will eat the other squash I grew this summer. Tonight I am having roasted butternut squash with roasted shallots and beets on the side and Flambo beans over cornbread made from Dakota Ivory White corn and pinole.
How long can a winter squash last in storage? I’ve had fig-leaf squash (Cucurbita ficifolia) remain sound for three years. This winter squash (C. maxima) and a few spaghetti squash (C. pepo) I harvested in September 2014 show no signs of deterioration. They are now thirteen months old since harvest. There was nothing special about their storage. I kept them in my basement on a wooden table and gave no attention to humidity or temperature. Other squash near them began to rot in July and August so maybe this winter squash and the spaghetti squash are different in some way.
I’ve already opened a few of the spaghetti squash and cooked them. They were a bit dry but there was no bad smell or off flavor. Tomorrow, I’ll be cutting open the winter squash and cooking it. Stay tuned.
Two new squash varieties I tried this year are Tonda Padana and Zapallo Plomo. Tonda Padana is a pumpkin (Cucurbita pepo) with thick yellow ribs and mottled green and yellow to orange skin in between. This variety is grown in Italy and used in soups, pasta filling, and gnocchi. The vines are large and rambling so it should be planted where it will not interfere with other garden crops.
The other new squash I grew this year is Zapallo Plomo (C. maxima) which is from an ancient Southwestern variety. It appears similar to the Santa Cruz Calabaza. The skin of Zapallo Plomo (Spanish for “leaden gray squash”) is gray to blue-gray and may have small lighter colored mottles. One squash had abundant corky growths on the skin. The squash produced from the seeds I planted were a rounded acorn shape to flattened and some had prominent ribbing. This plant also produces a large rambling vine and needs plenty of room to grow.
I had only a few seeds of each variety to start with but the yield was good. The Tonda Padana produced ten squash and the Zapallo Plomo four squash both with an average weight of about 7 pounds. That’s not bad for a fifteen foot row with seven plants.
September will soon be over and it is time to get the winter squash harvested, cured, and into storage for the long winter ahead of us. Today I began harvesting some of the squash. There are 30 butternut squash and so far 20 Hubbard type winter squash harvested. These and the next squash harvested will be spread out on a platform in the sun to harden their skins before I take them indoors to a cool corner of the basement.
The two squash pictured above are known variously as hokkaido, uhciki kuri, and red kuri and is one of my favorite winter squash cultivars. The red kuri squash is easy to grow and a prolific producer of red-orange skinned tear-drop shaped fruits weighing between 5 and 7 pounds with deep orange, smooth, sweet chestnut flavored flesh.
To grow red kuri plant the seeds in rich moist soil in a location that gets sun all day. Best germination occurs when the soil temperatures are at least 60° F. Give it plenty of room as the vines can grow 10 or more feet long. Fruits will be fully ripe about 13 to 15 weeks after sowing. The stems of ripe fruit will change from green to yellow. Don’t let the fruits be damaged by frosts as this will cause them to decay. Cure the fruits in a warm, dry location with direct sunlight and store in a dry but cool room. You can eat the squash right after harvest but the flavor is better if they cure for at least two weeks. Red kuri squash makes many staminate (male) flowers and these can be eaten, too, like any other squash blossom. The very young fruits just a day or two old can be cooked like summer squash and taste much better. Mature red kuri fruits are good roasted, in squash soups, made into pasta sauce with sage, parmesan cheese and garlic, and in pies, breads and cookies.
The cuccuzi edible gourd (Langenaria siceraria) vines have outdone themselves this year. I tried growing this edible gourd in 2013 and 2014 but with no success. My first attempt produced a sickly seedling that didn’t even make a vine. The next year I was able to grow a vine which produced a few flowers and one very small squash before the whole thing was struck down by frost.
This year the cuccuzi is doing much better. The warm summer has certainly helped. There has been a succession of many showy white flowers for over a month. Sometimes there are 20 flowers a day. And now there are fruits a few of which are ready to harvest for eating.
The cucuzzi edible gourd is grown in many warm and tropical climate countries and goes by many names: pergola lagenaria (Italy), yugao (Japan), hu gua (China), upo (Philippines), bau (Viet Nam), and dudhi or lauki (India). Each country has many recipes and uses for this plant. I’ve chosen an Indian recipe (sorakaya sanagabedala kura) that will use chana dal (split lentils or peas, I will be using yellow split peas), salt, cumin, mustard seeds, and red chili powder. The recipe calls for grated coconut so I’ll need to buy one. I won’t be adding any asafoetida as I don’t know where I could find any around here. I might be able to substitute garlic but the flavor probably won’t be the same. Finally, there is the grain on which it will be served. Rice is not recommended as it reportedly does not go well with this cooked gourd or kura. Instead, a big spoonful kura is spread on a warmed chapati (flat bread) which is folded over and served with steamed vegetables as a side dish.