When most people think of a pumpkin, they think of something that is orange, round, and could be carved into a jack-o’-lantern for Halloween. But my favorite ‘pumpkin’ isn’t really like that at all, even though it makes great pies, soups and muffins. It’s listed in most seed catalogs as Pennsylvania Dutch Crookneck Squash. But in the central Pennsylvania region in the U.S. where it’s popular, folks just call it a ‘neck pumpkin’. And that’s what I usually call it too.
To me, neck pumpkins resemble a butternut squash on steroids. The smooth tan skin and orange flesh certainly resemble the butternut, but neck pumpkins have an elongated meaty neck that can be either straight or curved, depending on growing conditions. These pumpkins can get up to 20 pounds in size, though mine tend to weigh in around 4 to 6 pounds. Which is still a lot of squash, anyway you look at it! Like its cousin the butternut, it’s also a great keeper.
The vines are quite long and vigorous, and need a fair amount of room to ramble about. Mine are quite happy climbing up the fencing around my garden. This Cucurbita moschata variety is resistant to squash vine borers too, which makes it great for areas where the dreaded SVB is a problem. In my garden it has not had any issues with bacterial wilt either. Since both wilt and SVB are problems here, this variety has proven to be a dependable performer for me for the four years I have been growing it.
To prepare the squash for pie, it can be steamed, baked or boiled. I’ve tried all three methods, and I prefer cutting the squash into pieces, cleaning out the seeds, then baking in the oven. When it’s soft, remove from the oven and let cool before scooping the flesh away from the skin. The flesh can be pureed with a food processor, but I usually do it by hand using a potato masher. The puree can then be frozen for later use (canning is not recommended).
The thawed puree can be used in any recipe that calls for pumpkin or mashed butternut squash, like pies, breads and muffins, soups, and even filling for ravioli. It makes a wonderful pie, with a sweet flavor and smooth texture. My wife makes a great pumpkin pie using an old family recipe. Her version has an almost custard like consistency, and is a real treat for me whenever she makes it.
This heirloom squash makes for an easy to grow, versatile and tasty addition to the garden, and it will be growing here again this year for sure. I hope you’ve enjoyed this Saturday Spotlight, and I’ll be back soon with another variety. Until then, Happy Growing from Happy Acres!
UPDATE: Sand Pilarski has a great recipe for pumpkin pie on The Piker Press, along with the backstory of how his family grew the ‘eating pumpkins’ as they called them and turned them into pie: Legendary Pumpkin Pie.
To see my other Saturday Spotlights, visit the Variety Spotlights page.