Green striped cushaw squash

Flour, for board 2 frozen puff pastry sheets, thawed 3 cups minced raw winter squash, preferably Sucrine du Berry, turban or butternut 1 small onion, minced 1/2 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves Salt and freshly ground black pepper 1 egg, beaten 1/2 cup crème fraîche, optional.

1. Heat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly flour a work surface. Divide each pastry sheet in half, and place 2 half-sheets on floured board. Mound squash on each, leaving a 1/2-inch border. Top with onion and parsley. Season with salt and pepper. 2. Use rolling pin to flatten and enlarge remaining half-sheets slightly. Place over filling, and seal by brushing with water and pressing together. Cut three slits in each pasty and brush with egg. 3. Transfer to a baking sheet, and bake until golden, about 30 minutes. Serve warm in slices, with crème fraîche if desired. Yield: 4 to 8 servings.

YAFA’S POTTED PUMPKIN AND BEEF Adapted from “The Compleat Squash” by Amy Goldman (Artisan) Time: About 4 hours, plus overnight soaking

1 3-pound piece beef shoulder or brisket Kosher salt 6 medium-size beets, peeled 1 leek, rinsed, dark leaves trimmed 4 cups chicken stock or water 3 pounds turban, buttercup or Hubbard squash in 1-inch chunks 1/2 pound green beans in 1-inch pieces 2 cups canned chickpeas, rinsed 6 stalks Swiss chard, stemmed and chopped 1 tablespoon ground cumin 2 teaspoons ground turmeric Freshly ground black pepper 2 1/2 cups white long grain rice, cooked.

1. One day in advance, rinse beef and place in bowl with cold water to cover. Soak 1 hour. Drain, sprinkle beef with salt, and let stand 30 minutes. Rinse and soak in cold water 30 minutes, drain, place in a large pot, cover with water, and simmer 2 hours. Cool, drain, wrap in foil, and refrigerate overnight. Place beets in bowl of cold water. Soak overnight. 2. The next day, place beef and leek in stockpot, add stock or water to barely cover meat, bring to a boil, and simmer 1 hour. Add beets, squash, green beans, chickpeas and Swiss chard. Simmer 1 hour, or until vegetables are tender. Add more stock or water if needed. Remove beets, quarter them, and return to stew. 3. Mix cumin and turmeric together in a small bowl. Add a few spoonfuls of cooking liquid, stir, then return to pot. Season stew to taste with salt and pepper. Remove meat, slice, place in soup plates, and spoon on remaining ingredients. Serve with rice. Yield: 8 servings.

Winter squash is a frost-tender, warm-season annual. Winter squash is grown to maturity on the vine until the skin is very hard (unlike summer squash which is harvested while the skin is still tender). Popular winter squashes include Hubbard, butternut, acorn, delicious, banana, Turk’s turban (photo above), cushaw, and spaghetti squash.

Sow winter squash seeds in the garden–or set out seedlings started indoors–only after the soil has warmed to at least 60°F, usually no sooner than 3 weeks after the last frost in spring. Winter squashes grow best in air temperatures ranging from 50° to 90°F; established fruit will ripen in temperatures as high as 100°F but flowers will drop in high temperatures. Winter squash requires 60 to 110 days to reach harvest.

Description. Squashes are a large group within the cucumber family, Cucurbita, and include winter squashes, summer squashes, and pumpkins. Winter squashes are eaten after they have matured and their skins have thickened and hardened. Some winter squashes grow fruit as long as 30 inches. Squashes have large, broad leaves; 4 to 6 stems or vines grow from a central root. Some winter squashes are sprawling; others are bush-like. Fruits vary in shape from round to oblong, to cylindrical to turban shaped. Separate male and female flowers appear on the same plant. Winter squashes have a distinct seed cavity, unlike summer squashes.

Yield. Grow 1 or 2 summer squash plants per household member.

Plant squash on a mound; the vines will run down the mound in full sun.

Planting Winter Squash

Site. Plant squash in full sun. Grow squash in loose, well-drained soil rich in organic matter. Prepare planting beds in advance working in plenty of aged compost. Add aged manure to planting beds the autumn before growing squash. Squash prefers a soil pH of 5.5 to 6.8. Winter squashes will sprawl and require ample space; if space is tight train them over small A-frame or up a trellis as tall as 5 to 8 feet.

Planting time. Winter squashes are frost-tender, warm-season annuals. Sow squash seeds in the garden–or set out seedlings started indoors–only after the soil has warmed to at least 60°F, usually no sooner than 3 weeks after the last frost in spring. Start squashes indoors as early as 4 weeks before the last average frost date in spring. Sow seed indoors in biodegradable peat or paper pots that can be set directly in the garden so as not to disturb or shock plant roots. Winter squashes grow best in air temperatures ranging from 50° to 90°F; established fruit will ripen in temperatures as high as 100°F but flowers will drop in high temperatures. Winter squashes require 60 to 110 days to reach harvest.

More tips at Winter Squash Seed Starting Tips.

Planting and spacing. Sow squash seeds 2 to 3 inches deep. Sow squash in hills or inverted hills, 4 to 5 seeds set 3 to 4 inches apart; thin to the two strongest seedlings. Space hills 6 to 8 feet apart. In rows, plant 2 squash seed 10 inches apart in rows 3 to 5 feet apart; thin successful seedlings in rows to 3 feet apart. Thin seedlings by cutting off weak seedlings at soil level with scissors so as not to disturb fragile roots. Hills or mounds should be 6 to 12 inches tall and 20 inches across. This will allow plants to run down the hill and away from the main stem. Inverted hills–which are used to retain moisture in dry regions–can be made by removing an inch of soil from an area about 20 inches across, using the soil to form a ring or circle. Plant 4 or 5 seeds in each inverted hill. Winter squash can be caged or trained up a fence or trellis. Set supports in place at the time of planting.

Companion plants. Nasturtiums, bush peas, beans. Avoid planting summer squashes in the shadows of taller plants.

Container growing. Bush-type winter squash can be grown in containers but the season is long. Sow 2 or 3 seeds in the center of a 10-inch container; thin to the strongest seedlings once plants are 3 to 4 inches tall. Extend the growing season by planting early and moving pots indoors when frost threatens. Set a cage or trellis in place to save space.

Butternut squash: Side dress squash with compost tea every 2 to 3 weeks during the growing season.

Caring for Winter Squash

Water and feeding. Squash grows best in soil that is kept evenly moist. Squashes require a lot of water in hot weather. Plants may wilt on hot days as they use water faster than the roots can supply. As long as the water is regular and deeply applied, wilted plants will liven up as the day gets cooler. Squash that is wilted in the morning needs immediate water. Add aged compost to planting beds before planting and side-dress squash with aged compost at midseason. Side dress squash with compost tea every 2 to 3 weeks during the growing season. Avoid feeding squash with high nitrogen fertilizer, 5-10-10 is best.

Delicata squash

Care. Squash has separate male and female flowers. The first flowers to appear are male flowers that will not produce fruit. Female flowers appear slightly later and are pollinated by the male flowers commonly with the help of insects. If pollination is slow or does not occur, use a soft-bristled brush to dust inside a male flower then carefully dust the inside of a female flower (a female flower will have an immature fruit on its stem, a male won’t).

Once fruits form set each one on a wooden plank so that it does not have direct contact with the soil; this will allow squashes to mature with less exposure to insects.

Winter Squash Pests and Diseases

Pests. Squash can be attacked by squash bugs, squash borers, and cucumber beetles. Handpick or hose away beetles. A small hole in the stem or unexplained wilting may indicate the presence of borers. Slit the stem, remove the borers, and dispose of them. Cover the slit stem with soil to encourage root development from that point.

Squash borers or bacterial wilt can cause squash plants to suddenly wilt and die just as they begin to produce. Bacterial wilt can be spread to squash by cucumber beetles; handpick and destroy cucumber beetles.

More at Squash Growing Problems: Troubleshooting.

Diseases. Squashes are susceptible to bacterial wilt, mosaic virus, and mildew. Plant disease-resistant varieties. Keep the garden clean and free of debris where diseases and pests may harbor. Water at the base of plants to keep water off the foliage, and do not handle plants when they are wet to avoid the spread of fungal spores. Remove and destroy infected plants before they spread the disease to healthy plants.

  • Powdery mildew, a fungus disease, will cause leaves to turn a gray-white color late in the season. Proper spacing and increased air circulation will help reduce this problem.
  • Mosaic virus can cause squash plants to become mottled yellow and stunted. Mosaic virus is spread by aphids. Control aphids and remove affected plants.
  • Blossom end rot will cause squash fruit to rot from the blossom end. Blossom end rot is caused by fluctuations in soil moisture. Water evenly and regularly and mulch around plants to conserve soil moisture.

Butternut, Hubbard, and Kabocha squashes. Cure squashes in the sun for a week or more after harvest.

Harvesting and Storing Winter Squash

Harvest. Winter squashes are ready for harvest 60 to 110 days from sowing when rinds are full color and firm (some acorn squash may be green and have semi-hard rinds). Winter squashes should be allowed to mature fully on the vine. If the rind cannot be dented with your thumbnail, it is ready for harvest. Complete the harvest before the first hard frost. Stems and vines will be hard and dry at harvest time. Cut squash from the vine leaving 2 to 3 inches of stem above the fruit; this will allow the squash to store longer. Use knife, pruning shears, or lopper to cut thick stems. Keep pruners clean so as not to spread disease to other plants. More tips at How to Store Winter Squash.

Storing and preserving. Winter squashes require curing before storing. Cure squashes in the sun for a week or more or place them in a dark, humid place for 10 days at 80° to 85°F. After curing store winter squash at 50° to 60°F in a dry, dark place. Winter squash will keep for 5 to 6 months. Winter squash with a soft skin will likely rot in storage; these squash should be cooked right away. Do not wash squashes until you are ready to use them. Cooked squash can be frozen, canned, pickled or dried.

Yellow acorn squash

Winter SquashVarieties to Grow

Botanical name. Cucurbita maxima and Cucurbita moschata

Origin. American tropics

Never heard of cushaw? I am not surprised. I had not heard of it either until I moved to Louisiana. Its a wonderful and easy to grow squash with similar taste and texture to pumpkin.

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Cushaw squash (Cucurbita argyrosperma) is a Native American winter squash that is striped green and yellow or green and white. Hailing from Northern Mexico, this delicious squash is similar to a pumpkin. The flesh is whitish yellow and very mild.

Planting

My seeds came from Baker Creek Heirloom seeds, Cushaw. Plant seeds about 1/2 in into warmed soil well after the threat of frost has passed. Like pumpkins they need a lot of space. Mine did very well vining along the fence. The only problem with letting them trellis is that they get heavy and can be an issue for the vine though mine held up pretty good. They make an excellent companion in the three sisters garden. Cushaw will start to produce fruit around 95 days later.

Growing

These vines grow large, thick stems and enormous leaves. Be sure to consider any plants you may have planted below or around these vines as they can block out the sun pretty well. They’re prolific with good sunlight and neutral soil. The vines travel along any trellis and are pretty sturdy. My vines were strong enough to hold up 17 lbs cushaw without any issues. I do have some issues with the squash vine borer but these held up better than most of my other squashes. They like the heat but have a little trouble with direct late afternoon sun, the leaves droop a little regardless of water. Cushaw can be thirsty though so keep that in mind when considering a watering schedule.

Harvesting and Curing

Like most winter squash, you can wait until the stems have dried. However, I found that the plant produced more if I picked them at peak color, regardless of the stems. Once they were harvested, I put them in a dark, cooler area without direct sunlight and let them cure for several weeks. They are similar to the other winter squashes you may recognize such as butternut, pumpkin and acorn in that the skin will harden. In my experience, the skin has never been as hard as a butternut. I have been able to get a fingernail in unlike others but they have not ever rotted and have been in storage for months.

Cooking with Cushaw

Many people use cushaw in place of pumpkin in pie recipes. This recipe is pretty good and tasty. I use them as a meat supplement. For example, for taco night I will have ground beef with shredded cushaw cooked up together with spices and no one ever notices the difference. I also use it in other savory dishes, especially ones with spice, such as chicken curry and shredded into sauces for pizza and spaghetti night. The might flavor is very easy to mask and readily holds the different flavors.

What squashes do you like to grow?

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Green Striped Cushaw Squash

Also known as “Sweet Potato Pumpkin”, this mildly sweet and meaty squash is made into as pie filling, cushaw butter, puddings, and simply roasted. Many 10-20 pound striped, crook-necked fruits grow on hardy, heat-tolerant, and borer-resistant vines. This variety was domesticated thousands of years ago in tropical Central America, and are beloved in several southwestern Indigenous nations, Louisiana, much of the southeast, and southern Appalachia. Truelove Seeds apprentice Amirah Mitchell’s great grandfather in North Carolina loved this squash as well, and she now stewards this ancestral squash to make cushaw butter and pies. Michael Twitty, author of the Cooking Gene, notes that “cushaws produced from the late summer into the late fall, taking the place of sweet potatoes while they were out of season”. To read more about the history and uses of the green striped cushaw, see the Slow Food Ark of Taste.

Our seed was grown by Amirah at Urban Tree Connection, as well as by our friend Elizabeth Andrews in Ashford, Connecticut. At Urban Tree Connection, we learned that there were Butternut Squash (C. moschata) growing a couple hundred feet away, and despite being a different species, there is a small chance that they could have hybridized and some plants and their fruits may have traits of butternut.

Also known as: Striped Crookneck, Striped Cushaw, Sweet Potato Pumpkin.

Days to maturity: 95-105

Seeds per pack: 20

Planting / harvesting notes

Direct sow in warm soil after the last frost, or seed indoors 2-3 weeks beforehand and transplant. Plant 3 seeds per hill spaced several feet apart, or seed in rows, one plant every 2-3 feet. Vines grow fairly long, so allow them space to sprawl. If grown in corn, you may need to train them so they won’t pull it down! Avoid downy mildew by watering only at the base of the plant (not on the leaves!). Harvest when the stem begins to turn brown and woody and the fruit becomes hard, leaving a couple/few inches of stem. Cure in a dry or sunny place for a week, and then store in a cool (45-50 degrees) room for up to 4 months (however, keep an eye on it and use it at earliest sign of softening if not before).

Seed keeping notes

Squash is insect pollinated and requires about 1/2 a mile of isolation from other varieties of the same species, which in this case is C. mixta. The seeds will be fully mature on any squash when the stem of the fruit has turned brown and woody, so when you eat your squash, the seeds should also be ready for harvest. Separate the seeds from the flesh, rinse them, and dry them on a screen or paper product away from direct sunlight in a ventilated place. The plumpest and hardest seeds will be most viable.

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