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VINING SUMMER SQUASH

family: Cucurbitaceae

 

A New Kind of Summer Squash
Korean Moschata

(Cucurbita moschata)

There are a number of different species of Squash and one has to be careful when saving squash seed that you aren't getting pollen contamination from members of the same species you aren't counting on. Cucurbita moschata is the species which have as members; cheese pumpkins, butternut squash, neck pumpkins and the infamous, if not unsensational, tahitian squash which is advertised so sweet you can eat it raw. They usually have tan skin and a bright orange, sweet flesh when mature. In our estimation, you can't grow a finer winter squash for cooking or baking (for pumpkin pies). Raw, I don't think so.

What's this? Using moschata as a summer squash? Pictured here are some moschata squashes from Korea where they are eaten in their green stage. Actually, this isn't so unusual. The Italians have their "Tromboncino" squash and the French have a squash called "Nice Long", as in the city. I hear the Brazilians have their varieties also. These are all moschata species which are often eaten like a zucchini or summer squash in their immature stage and have created a sensation among those who have tried them. "Hey, this is good", I've heard commented over a bowl of steamed summer moschata from one who only eats zucchini if it's in zucchini bread".

The Korean moschata we're growing I recognize as a moschata by the almost bulbous swelling where the stem meets the fruit. Ours are all vining squash although, so far they are less vigorous and productive than the moschata winter squashes we grow. Whether these will ever become popular in gardens here in the U.S. depends on some adventuresome farmers and gardeners willing to try them.

From Great Britain
A Vining Zucchini

(Cucurbita pepo)

It's getting much more difficult to find vining zucchini (the true pepo species). They were popular in England and New Zealand at one time I suppose because both varieties that are still available in the seed trade; "Table Dainty" (there's really nothing dainty about this striped squash) and "Long Green Trailing" (photo above) grow to the size of a small zeppelin. And the British like to raise giant exhibition vegetables. The fruit of these "marrows" are used at a stage a bit larger than we tend to use zucchini since they are most often stuffed and baked, but both varieties can be used to produce smaller tender zucchini.

I like Long Green Trailing a lot. It climbs up and over my old tractor, covers weeds and small trees with it's ever branching stems like Kudzu with a vigor that I admire; and where the vine contacts the earth, it anchors itself with new roots and sprawls onward with reckless abandon.

That's why I've pollinated so many of it's fruits with my favorite and most productive bush zucchini to increase the diversity of this great old vining zucchini.

Another vining pepo squash which is getting difficult to find is a favorite of the southwest U.S., "Tatume". Seeds over 10 years old from the old Long Island Seed Bank germinated and produced a small crop of small green pumpkin-like fruit. These vines, unlike Long Green Trailing are thin and delicate; and the leaves are too. Adapted to an arid climate, it forms roots at it's nodes struggling to both find and conserve moisture. This is one admirable squash.

I would like to think that these vining squash will have a role to play in regions of the world where soil fertility and limited water resources make a nice edible squash that can glean what is necessary to sustain itself from over a large area a useful food plant. In addition, some of these vining squash offer a shade canopy from the baking sun for creating a better environment for the survival of seedlings of other food plants.

(Gem Squash and Tatume Squash)

Tatume has it's origins in Mexico where the tough vines can bear a multitude of small pumpkin-like summer squash under harsh conditions. It is more drought tolerant than your average bush zucchini but when the oval, light green squash are harvested the size of a tennis ball they are delicious.


Another vine zucchini that we worked with in the summer of 2006 was "Little Gem" a dark sold green perfectly round little ball from South Africa. They should be harvested when golf ball size if you use them as a summer squash and they will just keep coming as the vines keep spreading. The internet will help you find links to the proper South African way to prepare these little squash as a supper time feast. Like Tatume they are arid squash and do rather well with limited resources. While tatume will turn a streaked orange as it ripens in fall (for seed), Little Gem never gets much larger than a tennis ball and will remain dark green. They make an interesting decorative fall squash.