Vining Summer Squash are Winning Converts

From Great Britain A Vining Zucchini

From Great Britain A Vining Zucchini

You can see by the size of this young vining zucchini which has sprawled up and over a snow fence that the fruit will become massive.  The vines of this British squash are similar to vines of Halloween Pumpkins.

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 but can still be found in the seed trade if you look hard enough.  "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.  Long Green Trailing in recent years has lost it's stripes as you can see in the above photo.  Even the color photo on the British seed packet shows the variation I knew from the 1970's and the two different English companies I managed to get seed from sell the same non-stripe variety undoubtedly from the same supplier.

Table Dainty

Table Dainty

I like the new Long Green Trailing a lot but I liked the old one better.   Table Dainty has it's admirers too. Both climb up and over my old tractor, cover 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, they anchor themselves with new adventitious roots and sprawl onward with reckless abandon.  That's why I've pollinated so many of their fruits with my favorite and most productive bush zucchini to increase the diversity of these great old vining zucchini.  Interesting to note, the F1 generation from the crosses all produced the bush habit of the male pollinators and a variation in fruit including a striped kind similar to the old Long Green Trailing I remember from a cross of Long Green Trailing and Romanesco.  While interesting, I didn't have the time to grow the F2 generation yet, but I anticipate that bush and vining kinds will appear in that generation when I finally get around to getting the F2 seed in the ground.
 

Tatume Summer Squash and Little Gem

Another vining pepo squash which is getting difficult to find is a favorite in Mexico and in 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 oval pumpkin-like fruit (shown below). 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 like most squash vines that sprawl over the ground 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.

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.  Recently, I've been hearing a lot from Southern gardeners (Texas and Florida) singing the praises of Tatume.  For flavor and texture they like it, but more than that they see it as a survivor.  Bush zucchini just don't last.  When disease or insects cause other summer squash to cease production,  Tatume comes through.


I used Tatume as the female parent and crossed a number of bush zucchini to it.  In the above photo you can see that the hybrid F1 generation looks quite similar to your usual bush zucchini.  One can tell the caserta and romanesco parentage of the striped fruit (courtesy of the Cornell PM breeding material), the black zucchini and white zucchini male parents are also obvious in the dark green and pale green fruit.  All with the Tatume female parent.  As far as plant habit, like my other vine x bush crosses, they are also bush habit in the F1 generation.  None of the frugal, tough, wirey vines that Tatume is known for is apparent in these crosses.  We'll see if these beautiful Tatume "daughters" have the resiliance of their parent in this and the next generations.

Gem Squash

Gem Squash

Another vine zucchini that we worked with in the summer of 2006 was the Gem Squash also known as "Little Gem" or "Gem Store", a dark solid green perfectly round little ball from South Africa. They should be harvested when golf ball size if you use them as a summer squash when the skin is tender and keep them picked young, they will just keep on coming as the vines branch and keep spreading. A single plant can spread over several square meters. 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. When mature the Gem Squash develops a hard shell and stores well. They can be treated like an acorn squash at that point. They make an interesting decorative fall squash.  A recent maxima squash was just released by the industry last year called "Little Gem", a bit confusing...and not the same squash as this C. pepo type.