What do you call a big veggie with attitude?
Now that I’ve gotten that terrible joke out of my system, it’s time to share some gardening news.
As a welcome balance to a very difficult year, part of our 2020 garden was exceptionally productive. This included our winter squash plantings.
Winter squash is an important crop for us because it keeps for a very long time without being canned, dehydrated, or otherwise preserved.
In fact, we still have one from 2019 that Chad’s father Delmer grew. It’s now over a year old and still holding up – Chad won’t let me cook it because he likes the face he carved into the skin. I can’t blame him, it is awfully cute. And when dressed in a hoody, he bears a striking resemblance to a certain extraterrestrial…
Our charismatic 2019 squash now has some buddies – and we aren’t sure what to call all of them either.
Although I usually go to great pains to keep track of what we plant in our gardening notebook, somehow I overlooked noting down our winter squash varieties as I was planting those seeds.
So when our pumpkins and winter squash began to grow, most of them were mysteries as to what types they actually were.
However, lack of organization aside, early in the summer we could tell that if all went well, we were in for a treat.
We had a few very large winter squash growing, and several smaller ones.
The garden gods blessed us, and all did go well. When it was time to harvest, we came to the consensus that gardening either on our own or together, this was by far our most successful year growing winter squash.
Overall we harvested around 150 pounds of winter squash and pumpkins. (Psst, “pumpkin” is just a name for certain types of winter squash.)
What made this year so great?
- We opened up some previously fallow rows, so perhaps giving the soil a rest helped.
- We added both compost and aged sheep manure to the soil.
- Chad spent a lot of time carefully searching for and destroying squash bugs, which can decimate your plants before you know it.
- Chad also dedicated a lot of time to weeding, saving me from a lot of back pain.
- Oh, and did I mention that fence extension he added to keep the deer from eating our garden bounty?
Yes, it was a lot of work, and were greatly rewarded for our labors.
Here are some of the varieties we were able to identify:
Hubbard squash is part of what inspired me to garden. Years ago I stumbled across a blog called Mother of a Hubbard (still online though without recent activity), and was enamored with the idea of growing such big winter squash of my own.
Now it’s no longer a dream, it’s a reality!
This baby weighed in at just over seventeen pounds at harvest time. I love its gorgeous light blue color and gigantic size.
I’ll update with our taste testing review once we slaughter this one. (Yes, in this house we from time to time slay a gourd.)
We got two of these, with a third partially developed one. Potimarron is one of my favorite winter squash, one that I found commonly available when I lived in Paris, France.
These two lovelies weighed in at two pounds each.
As of this writing, we’ve already eaten one of them, and it was pure heaven.
‘Potimarron’ is a mashup of two french words, potiron and marron – giving a strong clue to its taste – a bit like a mix between pumpkin and chestnuts. It has a dry, flaky texture and a delicious taste.
It’s absolute scrumptious combined with cranberries. I like to use this combo in savory tarts or with pasta. I also recently served it up with some black lentils and found the combination right on.
This is a variety that can be eaten as a summer squash or left to mature for winter storage. We only got a single fruit from this one, but it is a lovely specimen.
It weighed in at three and a half pounds.
‘Zucchino Rampicante’ is pictured below with its similarly long squash brethren.
The word is still out on how this one compares for flavor and texture.
Our ‘Tromboncino’ grew rampantly. This is another cultivar that can do double duty for either summer or winter eating. We let them grow rather than harvesting them young since we had a huge haul of summer squash this year as well.
This fun variety twists and turns into trombone-like shapes.
We harvested four mature ‘Tromboncino’ for a total of twelve and three quarters pounds.
‘Tromboncino’ has a firm texture and summer-squash flavor. And the nice thing is that there are only seeds in the very bottom, so the entire long twisty neck is nothing but easy to peel flesh.
Some of the other highlights from this haul remain without a certain ID. Here are a few:
This beautiful, long beast reminded us of a whale as it grew, partially hidden under waves of vines in our garden.
It weighed it at 22 and a half pounds.
We think this may be the result of a landrace mix we tried.
It was a delight seeing these two pumpkin shaped winter squash grace our garden, and watching their color deepen over the months from light orange to a deep burnt orange hue.
These two weighed 20.75 and 20.25 pounds.
One of these big babies will probably be the star of our Thanksgiving feast this year.
Big Salmon Pumpkin
Looking rather like our twin pumpkins mentioned above, but maturing to a paler, salmon color, is our Big Salmon Pumpkin.
Big Salmon came in at twenty and one fifth pounds.
Ok, I know that not everyone has the space, time, or energy to put into growing this much food.
Even if you don’t have a garden and want to stock up on some healthy food that will keep for a long time – winter squash is an excellent choice.
But, if you want to experience the thrill of your own harvest, you can start small, say, with a single zucchini plant, or some microgreens that you grow indoors in your windowsill.
Developing a relationship with a plant is nourishing in more ways than you might imagine. Caring for another living being helps take the focus of our own worries and, I think, is a good reminder that we are not the center of the world.
If you want more gardening or cooking inspiration, here are some other posts that may be of interest to you:
- Need tips for starting a survival garden? You’ll find them right here.
- Want to see what our garden looked like in spring?
- Check out the way I compost out here in the desert.
- Need a cooking idea for your winter squash? Try this potage recipe.
Oh and by the way…
Donkey Xoti says hi!