This will be one of the most expansive sections on the site, and the idea of crowd-sourcing different varieties that are native to different regions and different people excites me to no end! In my research I couldn’t even find a solid number for how many different varieties of squash there are in existence, and it seems the deeper you dive into categorizing and classifying the more expansive the world of heirloom and hybrid squash can become. Here we will do our best to split the difference. Feedback or contributions are welcome and we would LOVE to have any pictures of oddball heirlooms.
Acorn Type (cucurbita pepo)
Acorn type squash are a winter squash, standard acorn squash (with the deep green skin) are also called Des Moines squash or pepper squash. Acorns can be delineated by the deep striations that rib the outside of the squash but can be distinguished by the exterior pattern or color as well as the flavor or color of the flesh. They typically have a very pale orange to pale yellow flesh with a medium-stringy grain texture, and are excellent in soups, sauce, pies, and mashes.
Carnivals are a beautiful acorn type squash with an ornate outer skin that almost make people believe that it is strictly decorative. However, DO judge a book by its cover! This tastes at least as good as it looks, this is our favorite to when it comes to making our easy acorn-habanero hot sauce.
Thelma Sanders, for this writer at least, is the STAND OUT SQUASH of 2019 (cue mix-tape air horn). Its subtle pale skin and pastel yellow flesh make it a fairly unassuming offering. Originally grown as sweet potato replacement in Adair County, MD, by you-can-probably-guess-who, this delight has a sweet chestnut-like flavor that makes them both functional and fashionable. Try out our Thelma Sanders Eggnog Pie at yer next holiday gathering as this squash will easily skate through the holiday season with proper storage.
Sweet Dumplings are a best-of-both-worlds squash scenario displaying twin delicata and acorn characteristics. Truly eye candy for those with a sweet tooth, this gem shines in pies but also pairs with savory and smoky flavors for some of those next-level complex flavors. Single-serving size when mature, this lil’ guy lends itself well to stuffing. While they are high in sugar and exceptionally sweet, they do suffer from a short shelf life.
Banana type (cucurbita maxima)
Banana type squash are named for their elongated shape, tapering in at the ends and often curved slightly like a banana. Standing firmly among our favorites, banana type squash are sweet with and excellent yield and storage life. The grain tends towards firm, flaky, and fine. The unusual shape and size these turn heads and make for a fine discussion piece.
Guatemalan Blue Banana
Guatemalan Blue Banana squash has been enjoyed by indigenous South Americans for over 1500 years! The vine grows aggressively and can conquer a corner of your garden if you aren’t careful. The fruit is typically up to 18 inches long with a blue-green skin with pale slate grey striations. This squash is a real keeper that stays viable in storage even after cut, often times being cut off in rings and used as needed. Guatemalan Blue Banana Squash have a nutty and sweet flavor with a perfectly delectable grain and texture.
North Georgia Candy Roaster
The North Georgia Candy Roaster was the STANDOUT SQUASH of 2018 (cue mixtape air horns). The chefs we work with loved its syrupy-sweet flavor, fun name, and high yield. We loved it in our signature cocktail, the Squashalada, a (very slightly) more nutritious take on the classic Pina colada, but used it in more traditional ways as well. Originally grown by the Cherokee People in southern Appalachia it has its own place in Appalachian cooking, often used in pies, breads and soups. Whenever we roast one of these giants we save the sugary drippings left in the pan and reduce it until thick. The reduction tastes of molasses and squash and can be used as a syrup or a sweetener and adds complexity to salad dressings.
Sibley squash is given its name for the person who introduced it in New York, Hiram Sibley and Company of Rochester, but they were far from the first to grow it. This stone blue inverted-pear shaped treat also goes by “Pikes Peak” was originally grown by indigenous people in the Midwest and continues to be a regional favorite among gardeners. In my experience growing Sibley squash they seemed to have a lot of variance in expression of shape with most tending towards the true upside-down pear or alien head shape while others matured into longer more true banana-type form. Regardless of shape the inside is delicious with a firm fine texture and flavor that stood out enough to be labled Seed Savers Exchange’s blind taste test best squash of 2015.
Buttercup (cucurbita maxima)
Buttercups were initially propagated as (stop me if you’ve heard this one) a replacement for sweet potatoes by Dr. Albert F. Yeager. Externally they have a deep green skin with light green striping with a pale’button’ on the very bottom, internally the flesh tends yellow to light orange. This squash has a rich and creamy texture that lends itself to soups, sauces, breads, and pies.
Butternut ( cucurbita moschata)
One of the most prolific and widely available modern squashes is the butternut. Years ago, the straight-necked type we see most often today were very unfashionable. Folks preferred the long, curved, goose-neck style, but as shipping became more mainstream the straight neck and reduced size became a necessity to ship more efficiently. Developed in Massachusetts, the farm field where it was thought to have been bred has long been out of production but is now a golf course named, wait for it, Butternut Farm Golf Club. This staple of the American kitchen contains a small seed cavity with a solid neck of firm, delicious, bright orange flesh, to me this is relatable as I often feel like I am mostly neck meat. This is a truly versatile squash, its fine grain lending itself to soups, purees, roasted veggie medleys, and just about everything else you could want to throw a squash in. We recently used it in our 2019 squash pie test to make a deep-dish savory butternut pie with thyme whipped cream, the results were out-of-this-world!
Truth be told,when I started this project I had no idea how to tackle this huge section, especially because I’ve really only grown about twenty different varieties over the years. Just to get the ball rolling I contacted Steffen Mirsky, the assistant curator for Seed Savers Exchange, and asked him about some of his favorites.
Glenn Drowns (our seed donor) speculates that this variety might be the same one as ‘Winnebago’ intro’d commercially by Oscar Will (intro in 1921, no catalog photo).
Addendum: We discovered that it is not the same as Winnebago but it might be related.
Buschol Kurbis Naked Seeded
This is a naked seeded squash. You eat the seeds, not the flesh. Glenn Drowns (our seed donor) appears to have introduced this accession to the YB after obtaining it from USDA. I am unable to find this variety in the USDA collection. The USDA collection only seems to have 2 olkurbis accessions, and one was donated in 1990, after Drowns started listing in the YB. As far as I can tell the only potential Olkurbis match is ‘Giessener Olkurbis’. This accession was donated to USDA in 1953 from Germany. Inquiry needed with Drowns on this matter.
This one tasted terrible but was just a super cool orange giant. We called it “giant slug.”In the 1981 SSE Harvest Edition (pg. 24-25), Kent Whealy wrote how SSE acquired the Moon and Stars watermelon from Merle Van Doren. In that article, Kent Whealy also wrote about receiving other seeds from Merle saying: “He also gave me seed of a 4 ft. long, slim, orange, odd-shaped squash that he calls Kentucky Squash. I’ve never seen it before. It’s name has been lost because it changed hands a half a dozen times as it traveled from Kentucky to Missouri. All of these seeds (plus those of a hundred or more other unique vegetables) will be available through The 1982 Growers Network.” SSE staff in 2013 believes that this accession corresponds to Van Doren’s Kentucky squash.
Winfrey Family Permelon
A gentle giant of a squash that tastes pretty good after storage too. Randy Winfrey grew the seeds which he sent us in his garden in Princeton, WV in the summer of 2012. Randy first started growing this variety “sometime between 1978 and 1980,” when he received seeds from his parents, Howard and Henrietta Winfrey (both deceased). In his response to the accession data questionnaire, Randy indicates that his parents grew the permelons as far back as he can remember. (Randy was born in 1948.) Randy also shares how he believes that his father obtained the variety from his parents, Pearis and Bertha Winfrey. Randy indicates that he bases this belief on “some comments that [his father] made many years ago.” If this is in fact the case, Randy conjectures that his father, Howard, received seeds for the variety from his father, Pearis, “in the late 1940s or early 1950s.” Randy thinks this because his parents did not have their own house and yard until 1948. All three generations of Winfreys have lived and gardened in Princeton, WV.
Zucca Marina di Chioggia
Tastes great, traditionally made into gnocchi.2017 correspondence with William Woys Weaver (our seed donor) provided that he acquired this variety in 1974 from M. Cingano Sementi (Original Source), Vicenza, Italy. He included that this variety is also known as ‘Chioggia Sea Pumpkin.’ He no longer grows this variety. However, he acquired this variety in 1974 and offered it in the yearbook as late as 2006 giving him over 30 years of stewardship.
William Weaver also wrote an article “Grow These Heirloom Pumpkin Varieties” (Mother Earth News published Oct/Nov 2007) and mentioned this variety. He provided some history for this variety, included physical description, and a preparation. He included that this variety’s history was well-documented by Herwig Teffner (University of Graz in Austria) and that this variety has existed around Venice since the 1600s.