Each year, the summer months brings a bevy of new vegetables, among them a wide array of tempting varieties of Chubeza’s squash and pumpkins. This ensemble comes in green, yellow, orange or beige, dotted and striped, smooth and coarse, round, elongated, pear-shaped, pine-cone shaped, sharp, flat, small and large, and even some in extra-large sizes. What a field day for the curcurbitas (Latin for “gourds”), all so beautiful and tasty!
This year we grew five different squash varieties, from the huge Tripolitanian pumpkin which can definitely serve as transportation for a shoeless princess, through the middle-sized Napolitano pumpkin, the familiar butternut squash, the oh-so-orange and textured Amoro squash, all the way to the compact, fits-in-the-palm-of-your-hand green acorn squash. This variety is different outside and in, varying from yellow to salmon to dark orange, and in taste – a neutral gentle flavor, or nutty or sweet, and in texture: moist and juicy, dry and starchy or long and thin spaghetti-style.
Over the coming weeks you will be inundated with delightful small pumpkins coming almost every week. We remind you that you needn’t use them right away. We’d rather send them to you now, because here, crowded by the hundreds, they have so little breathing space. But in your homes, on your kitchen counter or in a wicker basket on the living room table, they’ll keep beautifully while enhancing your décor with a flair. If you keep them dry and ventilated, they’re good for another month or even two! If they start growing a thin spider-like web, just wipe it away with a dry cloth to prevent rotting.
The squash-trickle began over the past few weeks: first the butternut squash, a pair of green acorn squash, and the orange-hued Amoro pumpkin arrived. Soon to come: a sumptuous slice of Napolitano pumpkin will grace your boxes. After that, it’s time to greet the big mama – the immense Tripolitanian pumpkin that’ll remain with us all the way to winter.
The bigger and smaller pumpkins (also known as winter squash) as well as summer squash (including zucchini) belong to the same botanical category and even to the same species. The differentiation between squash and pumpkins is artificial, having to do with the stage at which they are picked and how they are used by human beings. All varieties are seeded (in an open field, in their natural season) from the end of winter/beginning of springtime, and they all grow from spring to summer.
We pick the “summer squash” early, before they ripen, when their shell is thin and their seeds are not developed, sometimes as early as 40 days after seeding. Since we pick the fruits off the plant before it had time to produce fertilized seeds, the plant makes additional attempts, yielding more and more seed-bearing fruit in order to fulfill its aim in plant-life (and animal-life): to spread its genes. Thus we are granted a long harvest season from a plant that just keeps on yielding. These squash do not keep for long, which is why in the past they were only eaten during their natural season, summertime, hence their name. Today, squash are also grown in wintertime in hothouses, so they aren’t really seasonal.
Pumpkins (large and small), however, are picked as they ripen and mature, when their shell is thick and hard and their seeds are quite large (and crackable). Since we wait till the ripening is complete, they are harvested three to five months from seeding day. Our Tripolitanian pumpkin is large, and often requires a wait of six months. Its hard shell allows it to keep nicely for several months, enabling it to be eaten in wintertime as well. This presents a particularly significant advantage in the pumpkin’s ancestral home of North America in those areas where it is too cold to grow food during winter. Pumpkins were easily stored in warehouses, offering sweetness and a summery zest to the cold wintery days. Hence their name – winter squash.
Here are some family members that you have already met this season:
The acorn squash originates in Mexico and the U.S. where Native Americans cultivated earlier species. The dark green type which we grow was introduced in 1913 and enthusiastically received, thanks to its excellent taste as well as its small size and thin shell, a source of relief for those battling the huge, hard pumpkins. In the U.S., and especially for those dining alone, it makes a good serving-for-one as well as a great stuffed vegetable.
The acorn squash really does taste delicious. Its skin is less moist than regular squash, and it has a sweet and nutty taste, which gave it the brilliant name “acorn squash.” Due to its sweetness, the acorn squash goes very well with piquant flavors – olive oil, salt, pepper and herbs, as well as sweet flavors – a gentle brush of honey or date honey. The ridges lining the fruit make it somewhat difficult to peel, but the good news is that you really do not have to! It tastes great in its shell. And if you still need to eat this squash shell-less, remove the shell only after baking or cooking when it’s so much easier to slip off.
The acorn contains more vitamin C and calcium than other squash varieties, and less vitamin A. If you treat it kindly, it will keep for a few months, decorating your tabletop, but its flavor will ebb. So let it decorate your countertops for a week or two, and then whisk it straight to the oven and onto your plates!
The butternut squash was most likely developed in the 1940s by an amateur gardener (not a farmer or scientist) named Charles A. Leggett who was experimenting in species cultivation in a small quarter-acre garden near his house in Stow, Massachusetts. Eventually, Leggett took the fruit of his experiment to the nearby Waltham Field Station to show them what he’d developed. They loved it! He named his baby “butternut” because he thought it was smooth as butter and yummy as a nut. It arrived in Israel in the 1980s, and received the cutesy name “dalorit.“
The butternut squash is usually fond of hot, humid tropical weather. More than her sisters, the butternut really can’t take cold weather, which is why it is the most popular of Israeli squash varieties. The first species of this type were chubby-looking (with seed-filled bellies) and had long, sometimes curved necks. Over the years, other variations were developed, some with chubby and shorter necks to provide a uniform vegetable demanded by the market. Like zucchini, butternuts can also be picked at an earlier stage, and they’re very tasty when young (some say even more than regular squash). They’re fun to grow in a home garden, where you can pick some to be used as summer squash and allow others to ripen till they become the genuine butternut.
The butternut’s smooth rind makes it easy to peel with just a regular vegetable peeler. It is sweet and its pulp becomes soft after cooking, although there are those who claim that baking makes it better. The butternut is very rich in vitamin A, and under good conditions can be kept for six months (but how could you resist?).
This next girlfriend, Amoro, (whose name must have been coined by a love-struck fella or gal) is an orange, round and flat squash boasting a proud little rump. She belongs to a prominent group we already know: the Kabocha’s, or Japanese pumpkins (which some call Hokkaido). Their defining characteristics are that they are all thick and lumpy on the outside, very hard to peel, and have relatively dry flesh.
“Kabocha” is Japanese for any type of squash. The origin of the name comes from the squash’s journey from Mesoamérica to Japan. After the Spanish and Portuguese arrived in America and discovered the new fruits and vegetables of the land, they began distributing them at the next stops on their sailing itinerary. The squash probably arrived in Japan in the mid-16th century via Portuguese sailors who brought it from Cambodia. It was named Cambodia abóbora, which was eventually shortened to become kabocha. And thus, every squash in Japan is a kabocha, and that is what this little group is called.
Its orange flesh color testifies to its wealth of beta carotene (vitamin A), which supplies a generous quantity of iron, vitamin C and potassium. It is similar in taste to the small green acorn squash, but hard to carve, which is why it should be softened first by steaming or baking slightly (first punch holes in the rind to allow the steam to escape). Then it can be easily cut and seeded for you to proceed and prepare it to your liking.
What’s green on the outside, orange on the inside, cylinder-shaped and very long with pumpkin seeds? Meet the Napolitano squash! We have grown it for some years — it’s sweet and tasty and can be sliced widthwise into thick slices, a little like a loaf of bread…
This is a good old vintage squash which has not ceased to please despite the many years it’s been around. Napolitano is widely grown in Europe and Israel. It’s Italian in origin, as you may have already guessed (and as such can also be used as a gangster weapon when the need arises). It’s been around forever, appearing in the illustrated Vegetable Garden by Vilmorin dating back to 1856, which describes the popular vegetables of the era. Napolitano is well-loved in south Italy where it is cooked together with spicy pepper, eggplant, tomato, pears and plums in a seasonal soup called Giambotta, or fried and served with various dressings. The seeds are noshed on roasted and salted.
Its shape resembles a huge butternut squash – with a wide bottom and narrower bottleneck, but sometimes it can reach one meter in length! Napolitano weighs between 7-15 kg and the texture is similar to the butternut: smooth and more condensed than a regular pumpkin, with a gentle sweetness. Its inside looks like the butternut, with a thicket of fiber and seeds. If your slice landed up coming from the seed section, use them well, but if you received a piece of “neck,” this is seed-free. Both are super nice!
The multi-varied shapes and colors of pumpkins are an example of Nature’s paintbrush. At times, human beings take it one stroke further – So for your dessert, enjoy this beautiful, crazy pumpkin statue created by Japanese pumpkin-lover artist Yayoi Kusama.
Wishing you a squash of flavor, and bon appetite!
Alon Bat Ami, DRor, Orin and the Chubeza team
WHAT’S IN THIS WEEK’S BOXES?
Monday: Zucchini, lettuce, corn, melon/watermelon, cucumbers/fakus, tomatoes, Amoro pumpkin/ butternut squash/acorn squash/slice of pumpkin, yellow string beans/Thai yard-long beans, basil/coriander, eggplant/bell peppers/potatoes, New Zealand spinach/Swiss chard.
Large box, in addition: Cherry tomatoes, parsley, scallions/onions.
FRUIT BOXES: Plums, apples, grapes, mango
Wednesday: Zucchini, corn, melon/watermelon, cucumbers/fakus, cherry tomatoes, Amoro pumpkin/butternut squash/acorn squash, yellow string beans/Thai yard-long beans, basil/coriander, eggplant/bell peppers/potatoes, New Zealand spinach/Swiss chard, scallions/onions/leek/garlic.
Large box, in addition: Tomatoes, parsley, lettuce/slice of pumpkin.
FRUIT BOXES: Plums, apples, grapes, mango.