Now that the heirloom tomatoes are done, my thoughts have turned to winter squash, in particular heirlooms. Heirloom winter squash are beautiful, diverse, versatile, super-tasty and just plain wonderful.
Patty Gentry of Early Girl Farm in Center Moriches shares a similar, if not more passionate, regard for winter squash. On a recent visit to her farm, I spied more than 20 different varieties of Cucurbita in varying sizes, shapes and colors. What is particularly fascinating about heirloom vegetables is that each variety tells a story. Gentry grows heirloom squash that hail from France, Italy, Spain, Australia, Japan, South Africa, Central America and Mexico as well as varieties prized by Native Americans and early American settlers. She sources her seeds from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, one of the largest, and most committed, purveyors of rare and heirloom seeds in the country. Baker Creek’s website lists nearly 120 different varieties of heirloom squash alone. Already dreaming about the 2015 growing season? Their free 212-page color catalog is spectacular and coffee table worthy.
Winter squash, with their thick skins, can easily be stored in a cool dry spot and will last for most of the season. Gentry still has a large selection of winter squash available and will be selling them at her farm stand in Center Moriches on Saturdays and Sundays from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. until her stand closes for the season on Sunday, November 23. Early Girl Farm is at 177 Montauk Highway, right next to Nettie’s Bakery. Gentry, who is also an accomplished chef, will be serving samples of squash soup and culinary inspiration, too.
On Friday November 14, Gentry gets off the farm a bit for a cooking demonstration at the Quogue Library. She will prepare some Thanksgiving recipes using organic root vegetables and barbecuer Brian Collins, of Ma’s ‘Que Crew, will serve smoked turkey. After the demonstration and tasting, Gentry will have her root veggies available for purchase.
Below is just a smattering of the some the wild and wonderful heirloom winter squash grown by Patty Gentry at Early Girl Farm.
1) Musquee de Provence, which turns tan when ripe, looks very much like it could magically become Cinderella’s coach. A very large pumpkin, this French heirloom has deep orange and slightly stringy flesh with a mild, sweet, almost buttery flavor.
2) Dickinson is a very large squash with tan skin and flesh that is dense, dry and sweet, rendering it one of the best squashes for pies.
3) Australian Butter is a large cucurbit with dense bright orange flesh. Rich and sweet flavored, it is ideal for pies and baking. This beautiful and rare heirloom from Australia is also a great keeper.
4) Kikuza is a Japanese heirloom with deeply ribbed tan skin and orange flesh. Its dry, sweet and mildly spiced flesh makes it a perfect table squash. Just boil and mash it and serve it with a few pats of butter.
5) Buen Gusto de Horno is a tasty Spanish heirloom. Translated, its name means good taste from the oven, and that it is! With dense golden orange flesh, this squash is excellent for baking and is a good keeper, too.
6) Uncle David’s Dessert is a squash whose name says it all. With a small seed cavity and super sweet orange flesh, this heirloom is very versatile; use it in pies and soups or just mash and serve it.
7) Black Futzu is an unusual Japanese heirloom that has golden flesh and a flavor reminiscent of hazelnuts. Its nutty flavor renders this squash perfect for soups, risotto and even a pumpkin spice latte.
8) Lakota is a beautifully colored heirloom that was grown and treasured by the Lakota Sioux. A great storage squash, Lakotas have a sweet nutty flavored flesh and are as tasty as they are good-looking.
9) Guicoy is a very old Central American heirloom that has been depicted in ancient Mayan pottery. This dark rumply-looking squash has a small seed cavity and sweet almost crimson-colored flesh.