Developing a New White Pumpkin

A Better White Pumpkin?

White Pepo aka Cotton Candy was introduced to commerce by the Rupp Seed Company.  It's a nice cream colored pepo type pumpkin (C. pepo) with some intentional variability in size, ideal for farmstand Halloween sales where this novel color introduction displays well beside traditional orange pumpkins.  It has tender easily bruised skin (imperfections show up more on the white surface) with white flesh and a large seed cavity suited for carving.  It's handle is not firm and long lasting though.  The skin can darken exposed to the sun from cream to a creamy yellow color.  Although not considered a prime edible squash, the flesh is crisp and can be shredded to make a fresh salad like cabbage slaw.  It is generallly considered tasteless and like a spaghetti squash (which it might resemble to some), takes on the flavor of the seasoning.  There are other white pumpkins commercially available including a few maxima type (C. maxima) pumpkins like "Casper" which are significantly different in characteristics to Cotton Candy.

Cotton Candy in late October

Cotton Candy in late October

Cotton Candy and Baby Boo just harvested

Cotton Candy and Baby Boo just harvested

We crossed Cotton Candy with Baby Boo in 2005 to produce an F1 (Ghost!) which was distributed through the OSP (Organic Seed Partnership) to participating organic farmers in New York State in 2006 and 2007.  The diminuative Baby Boo, a patented Jack-Be-Little type with long lasting white skin is a popular fall decorative squash and like Cotton Candy is an open-pollinated variety (non hybrid).   Cotton Candy and Baby Boo are the parents of the Ghost! tribe that is being trialed through the Organic Seed Partnership.   The F1 generation produced a rather squat medium sized white pumpkin which a lot of folks like.  This summer the seed from the F1 generation was planted and gave rise to a diverse tribe of interesting pumpkins that I posted pictures of in an earlier rambling.  Now the pumpkins have been in the field all summer and we can take a closer look at them.

Below is Baby Boo, the male parent of the larger, slightly squat Ghost! F1.  Ghost! is an easy to make your own hybrid pumpkin since both parents are readily available in commerce.  It turns out that the F1 has very good baking qualities probably from Baby Boo, is a long keeper and has a better handle than Cotton Candy.

F1 Hybrid Ghost with male parent, Baby Boo

F1 Hybrid Ghost with male parent, Baby Boo

F1 Hybrids like Ghost! are not likely to be made by farmers because of the labor in hand crossing the two parents.  To complete the breeding process and develop a stable open-pollinated variety you have to grow out the self of the F1 and then it becomes a selection process.  It appears that a stable variety might be developed in just a few years.  In 2007, the F2 generation was finally grown out and resulted in the following:

Most of the F2's have a round shape with a few plants producing the squat shape of the F1 (unlike Cotton Candy which is round to oval in shape).  They have not yet matured (photo taken Aug. 1) so it remains to be seen whether the shade of white will remain bright or become more cream.  There is indeed variation in the siblings and some developing fruit (not in photos) look promising also.  It is interesting that some of the plants are quite vining like Baby Boo, others are more compact or upright.

The F2 generation of pumpkins from Cotton Candy x Baby Boo F1 (Ghost!) have been in the field exposed to the full sun and high temperatures past their ripening period.  Ghost! was a flatter Cotton Candy type which retained it's bright color better in the field.  What you can see in this photo is the variation in color after prolonged sun exposure (late October).  Cotton Candy will typically turn a cream or yellow unless harvested early and protected from the sun and you can see that some of the F2's show this trait to an even greater degree.  Baby Boo;  however, remains white and you can see that some of the F2's show that characteristic as well.  Then, there are some that have turned an uncharacteristic buff-pink color.  I don't know where that came from.  The F2 generation (Ghost! tribe) of the two "white" pepo pumpkin parents shows the degree of new genetic combinations one can expect as segregation of characters occurs.

It's by a simple "mixing it up" of the genetics to obtain some expression of the recessive traits that one can obtain a nice pool to select from.  From this cross we may decide to select for a "Cotton Candy" type that retains it's bright white color or explore the stronger handles and longer keeping characteristics that we see in other siblings.  The off-color pinks I will process the seed of but I suspect they won't find a place in my garden next year.  But I will save the seed and maybe someday when I have time and space, I'll plant them out to take another look at them.  The yellows I will probably heave onto the compost.

That is a problem that plant breeders wrestle with.  You produce all this great variation but it's just impossible to explore every possibility that is offered by the cross and so much has to be tossed or shelved because of time limitations and the labor and other expenses of growing everything you might want to out.  It's always a tough call to decide what it is you want to work with and what you will have to shelve and it is useful to have a clear breeding objective to focus on.

Snowball-  Our New Holiday Tradition

Snowball-  Our New Holiday Tradition

Some of the F2's were round, smooth and pure white.  They also are surprisingly long keepers.  We were putting up the holiday lights stumbling over the last of these little pumpkins and I began thinking why are pumpkins only a Halloween and Thanksgiving item.  I would start them in late June to produce a late crop and then harvest them before frost in late October and then cure them in the dark until December.  My little niece used a glue stick and some glitter to turn the smooth surface of some of these pumpkins into attractive Holiday decorations.  The solid flesh can be sliced into pumpkin strips.  Dipped into salad dressing, the kids thought they tasted "crunchy and pretty cool".  Needs work to stabilize into a consistent variety.  Maybe then it will extend the farmers season a bit as a cash crop- who knows? 

Naked Seed Pumpkins

Styrian Pumpkin

In Eastern Europe in the region of Austria, Yugoslavia and Hungary pumpkins are often used for livestock feed.  The Hungarian Mammoth Pumpkins (Cucurbita maxima) could easily exceed 100 pounds.  Much smaller are the Styrian Pumpkins (Cucurbita pepo) of the same region, only a few pounds, which not only fed livestock but the seeds;  rich in oil, were removed to press into a dark green oil used in salads and drizzled into soups and pasta.  In Stryia it is as popular as olive oil and imparts a pleasant nutty flavor.  The interesting trait of the Syrian Pumpkin, sometimes called Kakai are the seeds that are naked.  They lack a testa or seed coat.  When snacking on pumpkin seeds, the seed coat is the white shell that has to be removed because of it's toughness.  Styrian and other naked seed (or snackseed pumpkins) either partially lack the tough seed coat or in some cases, completely lack a seed coat.

Breeding Naked or Snackseed Pumpkins

Several years ago we began to collect various breeding lines of snackseed type pumpkins which include Johnny's Seeds popular Baby Bear (which is quite a beautful little pumpkin) and others.  A mass cross of the many kinds that we were able to collect produced quite a bit of diversity to work with.  We were inspired by Elwyn Meader's work on some of the first commercial snackseed varieties released in the 1960's such as his acorn and delicata squash such as "Sweetnut" and "Eat-It-All" which I grew many years ago.  Recently, Brent Loy at the University of New Hampshire has worked on developing snackseed type pumpkins for maximum seed yield characteristics.
 

nakedseedchart.jpg

Our selection was for complete naked seed, eliminating the partial shell of the partly naked kinds such as Baby Bear and also preserving a good looking quality decorative Halloween Pumpkin such as Baby Bear, Lady Godiva and Triple Treat.  That little bit of seed testa is chewy and imparts a straw-like flavor.  Our interest in the quality of the flesh as a pie pumpkin was not an important factor since most people who grow the pumpkin for seed will grow others for pie such as moschata types.

Interesting totally naked seed

Interesting totally naked seed

Note that the dark green membrane surrounding the cotyledons slough off as the seeds were removed from the fruit.  It only happened with a few of the fruit. The flavor of the seeds was considered "superior" to seeds that retain the dark "skin".  The trait is not genetics so much but rather,  we feel it is a function of how we harvest and process the fruit.  It would be nice to be able to process the seed like this for a better tasting product.

 

Little Greenseed

Little Greenseed is our new development.  Initially we called it Pamela Greenseed since it incorporates some of the genetics of a nice little pumpkin called Baby Pam.  Stability?  There were a few fruit that had less green or less plump seed.  Pumpkin size is usually less than a pound but we have had some 2-3 pounders.  We leave it up to you to refine it according to your preferences. Little Greenseed is now commercially available from www.northforkseeds.com.

Acorn Squash

Fun With a Mass Cross

I can't tell you how exciting it is to produce your own garden adapted varieties.  It's like discovering a secret that plant breeders have known and kept to themselves.  Breeding vegetables can be fun.  Case in point: Acorn Squash.  Acorn squash are actually stubby zucchinis, odd shaped pumpkins, less crazy looking scallop squash, they're bigger Jack-Be-Littles or bloated delicata squash.  The thing about acorn squash is that they are all these things.  They are all members of the same species, Cucurbita pepo.  Pepo meaning a hard shelled berry.  Like the hard shell that the summer zucchini you overlooked get when left in the garden until fall.

Long Island Seed's new"Acorn Gene Pool"

Long Island Seed's new"Acorn Gene Pool"

Acorn squash are just so flexible genetically.  Cornell hit it right on when they began transferring bright stripes and bold colors into their acorn squash perhaps because they were working with a beautiful delicata squash cross that kept segregating into an acorn shape.  Maybe it's not as simple as that, but acorn squash are enjoying a kind of revival in the culinary community because they're not just dark green and stringy anymore.  The Gill Brothers developed a terrific golden acorn squash many years ago and there are a few white ones that are nice to grow including a favorite of mine from many years ago selected by Glenn Drowns of Sandhill Preservation Center;   but now, I do believe that people are looking for varieties like Harlequin, Celebration and Carnival because of their good looks, disease resistance, texture and most of all, their flavor. 

I have tremendous admiration for the public sector breeders who work with interspecies crosses in order to impart disease resistance or develop compact plants without sacrificing good quality fruit.  It often requires years of patient work along with many failures.  When they finally have the characteristics that they want then they work to stabilize the characteristics so that the farmer isn't surprised by off-types that aren't marketable.  It's not all fun for the public breeder.  Indeed, it's a job that requires many skills and a good foundation in genetics and plant sciences.
 

It is fun for me though.  I'm nonchalant about my ignorance.  You see, I use the material from the public breeding programs.  Sure, I like the disease resistance and creamy texture of one of the Cornell acorns.  Make it one parent.  I like the amazing sweetness of the acorn from Oregon State University.  Another parent.  The bush habit from University of New Hampshire is sure nice.  And then those colors and patterns.  Coming up...one mass cross.  What we do best at Flanders Bay Farm is mix up the gene pool.  I sometimes hate myself for being so sacrilegious in a breeding sense.  After all, these great breeders often spend a large part of their lives perfecting the perfect acorn squash and here I am adding its genes into the pool of other acorns with the nonchalance of preparing a tossed salad.

Kent Whealy, founder of the Seed Saver's Exchange once came to visit me on his way to Russia many years ago.  He had just received the MacArthur Foundation Award also appropriately known as the "genius" award and was using some of the money that goes along with the honor to go to Europe and help out others who were trying to preserve their endangered heritage varieties.  We had a great visit over local wine and mussels and then I brought him into my seed room.  Look at this.  I showed him this jar ofWinter Squash seed.  A mixture of beautifully diverse seed from the Hopi, Tarahumara, and Maori and treasured heirlooms from generations of seedsavers.  I was proud of being able to market all these varieties in one low cost packet.  It was 1991 and that was what my Long Island Seed Company was known for:  Genetically Diverse Seed Blends.  I could see the look on Kent's face.  Like you have an olive pit in your mouth and you're too kind to just spit it out.  We spent much of the remainder of the visit discussing the merits of Paul Simon's album, "Graceland", something we both agreed on instead of the heresy of mixing up seeds.

I'm not sure if Kent realized that I multiplied every rare variety I obtained, hand pollinating and keeping it true to type in order to preserve it before I would mix a small part of my sample into the jar of seed I made the packets from.  This is before I started the mass crossing that typifies my work today. 

It's still the same today though, for each breeding accomplishments, there is a box of dozens of seed samples that were used to produce it.  I still stand on the shoulders of giants and I honor them in my own way by trying to preserve the original material.  But I do have fun mixing it up!

Can you guess the parentage of the acorns below?

1. white with green stripes

1. white with green stripes

3.  green moss pattern on cream

3.  green moss pattern on cream

5. small yellow       

5. small yellow       

7. orange and yellow stripe dumpling  

7. orange and yellow stripe dumpling  

2. dark green with yellow "eyes"

2. dark green with yellow "eyes"

4. deep orange with green pattern

4. deep orange with green pattern

6. deep green ripens with gold highlights

6. deep green ripens with gold highlights

8. cream with green stripes, some orange  

8. cream with green stripes, some orange  

    

Breeding Hubbard Squash

The original Hubbard Squash was transported by sea trade to coastal Marblehead, Massachusetts probably from Argentina or Chili via the West Indies. It was a heavy, hard shelled 25 to 40 pounder and was given the name "Hubbard Squash" by farmer and teacher, James Howard Gregory after the lady who introduced he and his father to the "sea" squash, a respected housekeeper, Elizabeth Hubbard.  Gregory released seed of it to neighbors in 1844 and it became a favorite New England baking squash.  Believed to have originally been a green or variable greenish colored skin, the Hubbard apparently was the catalyst that prompted James Gregory to enter the seed business.  He released the variety, "Marblehead" as an improved, more stable selection of his green Hubbard in 1867. 

The popularity and quality of the hubbard across 19th century America caused a flurry of breeding work using the hubbard as a parent.  Similar tapered or football- shaped squash were developed such as a darker green, much warted "Chicago" hubbard released by Vaughan Seeds of Chicago, Illinois in the1890's and the Golden Hubbard that was introduced by the Ferry-Morse Seed Company at about the same time.  Soon after, in 1909 the Gregory Seed Company released the Blue Hubbard, which remains best known in the hubbard squash category. The Blue Hubbard is the largest squash of all the Hubbards sometimes attaining a weight of 50 pounds.  By James Gregory's own account, "Blue" was a chance cross between his green "Marblehead" and "Middleton Blue" which appeared in his Hubbard production fields as early as 1870.  

By 1900, J.H. Gregory produced 400 acres of seed crops and was one of the largest seed growers in America.  He is remembered as a great American Seedsman and philanthropist who introduced many kinds of vegetables suited to the New England growing region and had a reputation for maintaining and improving variety quality.  He was also the first to develop the "picture" seed packet with instructions. One of the historic buildings of Marblehead, Mass. was the "squash shed" located downtown. This is the place where the squash was brought from the production fields. I remember reading accounts of Gregory's Squash Shed. Villagers would line up at the shed to receive the emptied squash after Gregory and his seed staff cleaned the seeds out. The squash halves were given out to any families who wanted baking squash and it became a squash season tradition that lasted decades.
 

Scaling back the size of the Hubbard Squash to modern family needs is something that other breeders have been working on for many years.  Something like 5-8 pounds would be a nice sized Hubbard. There are some open-pollinated baby blue kinds and hybrid types of orange and green.  My work on Hubbards has been to expand the color range and create a number of stabilized open pollinated kinds.  Above, you can see some of the variation in my Hubbard Series grown in 2005 and 2006. 

I wish it was so simple to produce the miniature hubbards that I do get on occasion.  The truth is breeding is a bit time consuming especially if you aren't so disciplined (like me).  It's nice to know that it wasn't until 1867,  23 years after growing the original green Hubbard Squash that Gregory finally felt that he had a pure, stable line to name and release (as Marblehead) and that it wasn't until 1909 that the pesky blue trait that resulted from a chance cross around 1870 and contaminated the Marblehead variety came into it's own as a stable purposeful variety, Blue Hubbard. Hmm, it took over 60 years after Gregory gave the name Hubbard to his "sea" squash before he released the "Blue Hubbard".

Just when I think I've got it right after revisiting my hubbard breeding project from the 1980's and devoting the last three years...with a nice selection of colors all in the size I desire, everything goes astray.  Each of the above colors were grown in separate plots in 2007.  It seemed like by pollinating within the plots of separate hubbard colors, I would soon have a nice stable series to release. But stability can be elusive.

This year's harvest of squash was more diverse than I would have expected.   There were very small one pounders as well as very unhubbard looking fruits from oval and long to crown shaped.  I am tempted to place the blame on Mendel as if he had anything to do with this.  But I know it was me. 

As a breeder, I have many faults. My Hubbard patches were neglected last year and instead of the careful, labor intensive routine of isolating blossoms and then hand pollinating to produce inbreds, a critical part of achieving stabilization, I was occupied by some other project. I'll blame the bees. Another fault is that I just can't leave well enough alone.  I grew other C. maximas. I shouldn't have. I figured that I could add more variation to my hubbard colors by introducing a small white maxima into the mix.  Who would think the roundness would be such a big deal? I grew Bonbon F1 and Sunshine F1.  Sunshine was a 2004 AAS Winner and Bonbon was a 2005 AAS Winner for Rob Johnson of Johnny's Selected Seeds in Maine, one of the very talented breeders of my generation.  These two squash, a dark green maxima and a bright orange maxima are not only great producers in the home garden, they are also among the finest flavored squash around.  Who could lose with such great genetics? Let the pollen fly.

So, I just lost a year that I could have used to increase the stability of my Hubbard breeding lines by the looks of this past years crazy diversity at Flanders Bay Farm.  Maybe, maybe not.  I prefer to think that I'll have something really great to offer in maybe 60 years. 


http://www.nal.usda.gov/afsic/AFSIC_pubs/heirloom/srb9805.htm#tocv1p17c

The Ornamental Mini Pumpkins

It all started with Baby Boo, that slightly flattened ribbed white mini-pumpkin that is a big hit at the fall farmstands.  It happens to be the one patented squash I am crazy obsessed about in what is now a sea of patented living things.  Ask me about plant patenting.  Go ahead.  I dare you.   Let me tell you my feelings about the ownership of genetic resources...

Long Island Seed's new "Ornamental Edibles"

Long Island Seed's new "Ornamental Edibles"

I guess I was a little irked because Baby Boo looks so very much like an heirloom white pumpkin from Asia that I used to grow and now that Asian pumpkin or something very similar was "owned" by some person who could collect the royalties from it.  I've calmed down and now realize that Baby Boo was probably developed independently from Chinese White and could have unique genetic combinations introduced into it by it's breeder.  Perhaps I was just irked at the USDA Plant Patenting Office for not even realizing there was already a Baby Boo look-a-like out there and they were handing out ownership rights for this and God-knows-what other living thing.  Maybe I'm just becoming a curmudgeon and I ought to just "get over with it".  Patenting is here...good or bad.

Well, perhaps some good did come of it.  One of the amazing things that has happened over the last few years is the increased variation in my patch of "Ornamental Edibles" a term coined by the folks at Rupp Seeds for decorative mini pumpkins .  This year the diversity was truly a thing of beauty.  And they all harken back to Baby Boo parentage.  After all, you can use a patented variety in breeding projects like I did (until the USDA and our Congress choose to make that illegal too).  Several years ago I crossed Baby Boo to other pumpkins, acorn squash, even zucchini.  Call it, making a statement.

Actually, my foray into mini pumpkin breeding which culminated in this fall's wonderful harvest started with the "Boo" and Jack Be Little (the tiny orange mini pumpkin) and later Sweet Dumpling and Sweet Lightning were added to the gene pool, and some unintentional bee crossing.  The average size of the mixture of "ornamental edibles" is about twice the size of the original Baby Boo and Jack Be Little.  This mix has everything going for it, good looks, outstanding flavor...

MOSCHATA SQUASH

Cheese Pumpkins

This years harvest of Cheese Pumpkins from Flanders Bay Farm went to Krieg's Bakery on Montauk Highway in Hampton Bays, NY. Just before Halloween until just after Thanksgiving, Wally Krieg cooks up batches of the local Long Island Cheese Pumpkins to mix with condensed milk, malt sugar, spices and fresh eggs to produce distinctive pumpkin pies that are extremely popular with his regular customers. He is one of the few local bakers that still use the fresh cheese pumpkins instead of relying on the much easier to use commercial canned pumpkin mix. Briermere Farm on Sound Avenue in Riverhead, NY also make their pumpkin pie out of the local cheese pumpkins. If you don't live on eastern Long Island you may just have to bake your own if you want to match the awesome flavor of pumpkin pies made with the local "Cheese".

The cheese pumpkin, famous for making pumpkin pies was available through many seed retailers through the 1800's and into the 1960's. But then suddenly, it disappeared. Some retailers listed the Kentucky Field or Dickinson pumpkin instead, which is also a moschata species and shares many similarities with the cheese except that they don't have the beauty of that pumpkin described by some, "like a flattened wheel of cheddar".

The cheese pumpkin is C. moschata just like the butternut, neck pumpkins and the calabaza squash that are featured in Hispanic markets. Cheese pumpkins are not all the same. There is; in fact, as much variation in cheese pumpkins as in butternut squash. Yes, there is variation in butternuts!  Cheese pumpkins are, according to Native Seed Search of Tuscon, AZ, one of the oldest squashes to be domesticated and selected for food and animal feed. The ripe pumpkin is nutrient rich and bright orange with beta carotene. Of all the squash, they have some of the smoothest flesh and lack the stringiness found;  certainly better in quality thanmost pepo pumpkins;  many lines are also known for their high sugar levels. They also have distinctive butternut qualities and even the tan coloration of the butternut squash in most cases.

First Place winner at the Riverhead, NY Country Fair in the fall of 2005: Long Island Cheese Pumpkins

First Place winner at the Riverhead, NY Country Fair in the fall of 2005: Long Island Cheese Pumpkins

For pumpkin pie, moschata squash like Long Island Cheese is favored. We never use pepo squash like the standard Halloween pumpkin. Pepo squashes often cook up stringy, insipid, and watery. Moschata squash are richly colored (usually bright orange), higher in nutrients and sugars, always smooth grained and have a denser flesh that will result in a better custard. It's the same reason we use chunks of moschata squash in our winter roasts and stews. Cheese pumpkins can also be stored in a cool room of your house for most of the winter for future use.  One old-time cheese pumpkin that I collected at a farm in Cutchogue, on Long Island's North Fork was particularly good for pie and had the ability to last from one Halloween to the next.  You might still find the seed in circulation among seed savers and available through the Seed Saver's Exchange, Decorah, Iowa.
                                    
It is the watermelon-shaped Dickinson and similar hybrids (that roll better on the conveyors and lack the pesky ribbing that would make peeling more difficult) which are raised in the Midwest and keep the canned pumpkin industry going. Libby's knows a good pumpkin and the cheese pumpkin is the granddaddy to those modern processing types. There were farms that raised the cheese pumpkin not too far from where I grew up near the middle of Long Island. Every year, in the fall, we visited them when it was time to make pumpkin pies and the beauty of these big pumpkins left an indelible impression on me. I guess that's why I began to collect the farmer saved strains that were abundant on Long Island in the 1970's and 80's.

It's remarkable because these pumpkins were no longer in commerce and there was incredible diversity farm to farm.  Each isolated farmer in a remarkably short time, was able to select and create their own distinct variation. The variation was impressive. There were giants over 25 lbs. probably better for stock feed and little sweet round 5 pounders. I lost almost all of the many strains I found and collected after Long Island Seed ceasedoperation. Fortunately, and in a strange bit of fortune, the genetics of the Long Island cheese pumpkins is preserved in the seed available once again from a number of seed retailers. One day when Long Island Seed was still operating, a squash and melon collector and seed breeder, Curtis Showell who raised seed commercially for a number of retailers called me with a request for an unusually large amount of cheese pumpkin seed, enough seed to plant an acre. I sent 4 different separately labeled strains of the cheese pumpkins including "Long Island Cheese" which I was working on at the time. Shortly after, Long Island Cheese appeared in the seed trade. You could still see some of the variation within the Long Island Cheese because it was crossed with the other cheese pumpkin variations especially in the initial years of marketing the seed.  As it continues to be selected by industry breeders, Long Island Cheese has turned into less of a culinary giant but it is quite a beauty.

This year we grew all F1 hybrid cheese pumpkins from crosses that we made last year. We crossed our Long Island Cheese with large Calabazza pumpkins with green and grayish mottled skin as well as with the ribbed heirloom French pumpkin Musque de Provence, one of our local Milk Pumpkins and a few other round moschatas that are very fine baking kinds in order to obtain more diversity for on farm breeding. Next year, the F2 generation will be amazing in it's diversity! If you're an on farm breeder we can supply you with 2009 F2 seed so you can produce your own better cheese pumpkin.

French Cheese Pumpkins

French Cheese Pumpkins

Another beauty are the French Cheeses.  Varieties of these very ribbed cheeses are popular in Europe and Japan and are showing up in this country now that there is more interest in specialty squash (due in part to Amy Goldman's beautifully written "The Compleat Squash..."  with photographs by Victor Schrager).   The French sell the squash in the local markets by the slice using the deep furrows as guides.  The Japanese version is much smaller and have overtones of chestnut.

 

Neck Pumpkins and Butternuts 

At one time there were no butternut squash.   It's hard to believe.  Small straightneck moschata begin to show up in the U.S. the 1940's. Some of the earliest work in the breeding of the butternut was done at the University of New Hampshire by the legendary breeding team ofE.M. Meader and A.F. Yeager who did their work as public breeders at the New Hampshire Agric. Expt. Sta., Durham, New Hampshire.  Baby Butternut and Waltham Butternut, the first popular butternut varieties came out of their program in the 1950's.

zakneck.jpg

This old kodachrome of Zak sitting on our doorstep in 1991 shows him modeling what is probably the ancestral butternut, the Winter Crookneck Pumpkin (C. moschata) or sometimes simply called the "Neck Pumpkin".  There have been many variations in the Neck Pumpkin.  Canadian Crookneck was well known as a fine orange flesh moschata with a solid sweet crooked neck in North America since the 1800's.  Luther Burbank used the Canadian Crookneck squash for some of his first squash breeding experiments.  The moschata "Crooknecks" are known from India to Italy where they are eaten as summer squash.  Tromboncino is one.  France also has an old heirloom which is neckless.

 

Summer Moschata

A New Kind of Summer Squash: Korean Moschata

Summer Moschata Squash

Summer Moschata Squash

(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. We grew a very diverse mixture of Korean moschata produced from two hybrids that are popular as a summer squash in Asia. If you are interested in growing the F2 and F3 moschata squash let us know. We can supply you with seed.

Summer moschata ready for seed harvest or using chunks in a winter stew.


Summer moschata ready for seed harvest or using chunks in a winter stew.