I debated about what to call this project. Was is a smackdown or a throwdown? Or maybe a bake-off? I finally decided to call it a smackdown, since Merriam-Webster defines that as “a confrontation between rivals or competitors.” In this case the rivals are several varieties of pumpkins and winter squashes I grew this year, and they are competing to tempt my taste buds to see if I will grow them again. The event took place this week, and here is my report on the results.
The rivals in this competition included two C. moschata varieties (Pennsylvania Dutch Crookneck Squash and Waltham Butternut), two C. maxima varieties (Boston Marrow and Candy Roaster) and one C. pepo (Kumi Kumi). All were grown here in our garden, and were harvested when fully ripe and mature. After curing, they have been kept in the relative cool of our basement pantry area. In the above photo, the Pennsylvania Dutch Crookneck is in front, and from left to right we have the Kumi Kumi, Waltham Butternut, Boston Marrow and Candy Roaster.
To prepare the squashes, I cut them in half and removed the seeds and pulp. Then I cut them in pieces, put them in a baking dish and roasted them in a 400°F oven until the flesh was tender. This took anywhere between 60 and 90 minutes, depending on the size of the squash and the thickness of the flesh.
After roasting, I let them cool enough to handle, then scooped out the flesh from the skins. I drained off any excess liquid that separated from the flesh, then I pureed the flesh with a immersion blender until smooth.
This project turned into a marathon, and it took pretty much the whole day to cook and process the pumpkins. By the end of the day, I was pretty much sick of the smell of roasting squash. But I wasn’t quite through just yet, because can you guess what I had for dinner? Yep, baked winter squash!
Here are my thoughts on the five varieties I baked and tasted. Of course, tastes are very subjective. Most people are familiar with butternut squash, so I’ll try to use that as a reference point. And frankly, since butternut and its close relative the neck pumpkin do so well here in the garden and in the kitchen, they are pretty much my gold standard for pumpkins, and the ones to beat when it comes to taste and yield.
- Pennsylvania Dutch Crookneck Squash – the flesh is moist, fine textured, and tastes much like butternut squash. I sometimes describe it as a ‘butternut on PEDs’. The vines ramble, and the plant is prolific. The fruits keep for at least 6 months in storage. I will grow this one again for sure.
- Waltham Butternut – flesh is moist, not stringy, and very sweet and flavorful after a few months in storage. The rambling vines were prolific, and resistant to SVB. I’ll grow this one again too. (For those with small gardens or a short growing season, the Early Butternut variety has a bush habit and the flavor and quality is similar to Waltham in my experience)
- Boston Marrow – the flesh is moist, with a nice texture and mild taste. The rambling vines gave me one giant squash that weighed over 16 pounds before curing. It isn’t really any better tasting than butternut though in my opinion, and the huge fruits make it difficult to use in the kitchen. Though it’s a good squash for baking, I don’t think I will grow it again – all things considered.
- Candy Roaster – this one had the mildest taste of all, which to me was not necessarily a good thing. The vines gave me two usable fruits weighing a total of 27 pounds, so it was a good yielder. Given the mild taste though, I don’t think I will grow it again.
- Kumi Kumi – the rind is hard, and difficult to pierce. The flesh has a rich flavor when baked, but it is a bit stringy. The texture is fine when pureed. This dual purpose squash gave me lots of squash that I harvested both at the immature and mature stages. I let five of them mature for winter use, and these averaged about 6 pounds each. I will grow this one again for sure, though I think it is better used as a summer squash.
This was an interesting project to say the least. And a rewarding one, since we now have lots of pumpkin puree in the freezer. Plus, I made a batch of pumpkin custard using some of the Boston Marrow puree. That was my reward to myself for my marathon pumpkin baking session.
I hope you have enjoyed reading my thoughts on these varieties, and how they performed in the garden and in the kitchen. Next year, I will be growing the Pennsylvania Dutch Crookneck Squash, Waltham Butternut, and Kumi Kumi again. And I plan on trying two more heirloom open pollinated C. moschata varieties: Black Futsu and Long Island Cheese. I’ll be back soon with more adventures from Happy Acres.