Lately I have become fascinated with heirloom vegetables, especially the winter squashes. There is such diversity in sizes, shapes and colors, and I find myself wanting to grow them all. These long-keeping vegetables are a mainstay of our winter diet here at HA, in part because many of them keep so well and also because they are so versatile in the kitchen. It doesn’t hurt that they are nutritious and tasty too.
Today’s Spotlight is on a Cucurbita pepo squash called Kumi Kumi (or Kamo Kamo by some). This variety is an heirloom Maori pumpkin and is reported to be quite popular in New Zealand. I grew Kumi Kumi for the first time last year. Before that I was not familiar with it. The fast-growing vines rambled all over the metal fence around our vegetable garden. The fencing did a good job of supporting the heavy fruits, as you can see in the above photo, and I plan on growing them the same way this year.
Kumi Kumi is somewhat unusual because it can be used at both the green and mature stages. When young, it can be used like a summer squash. It has a mild flavor and texture like zucchini, though I think it has a sweeter taste and a bit drier flesh. I love it sliced fairly thin and then grilled, brushed with a little olive oil and simply seasoned with some salt and pepper. Grilling seems to bring out the sweetness, and the firm flesh holds up well this way. The round shape also makes it a good candidate for stuffing, though I haven’t yet tried them prepared that way. According to the Baker Creek catalog ‘the young fruit can be boiled, fried or baked’.
As they mature, the outside starts turning orange, usually with a few streaks of green remaining. The ridged rind is hard and tough, and can be a bit difficult to pierce with a knife. The thick flesh inside has a rich flavor when baked, but it is a bit stringy when compared to other popular winter squashes like the butternut. The texture is quite smooth when pureed though, so it does well for soups, breads and other similar uses. They are also quite decorative at this stage, though the hard rind would be difficult to carve into a jack-o’-lantern unless you have a power carving tool. The tough exterior makes it a good keeper, and after 6 months in storage ours are all still doing fine, and we haven’t lost one yet.
After baking I usually use an immersion blender to puree the flesh after scooping it out of the shell. A food processor can also be used. I like to freeze the puree in pint size containers for later use. The puree then finds its way into cakes, muffins, pumpkin bread and soups throughout the year. One of my new favorite things to make is Maple Pumpkin Custard. I’ll try and share that recipe here soon. Of course we also use it to make my wife’s Whiskey Pumpkin Pie, which features a little Kentucky bourbon for extra flavor.
In the U.S., seeds for Kumi Kumi are available from Nichols Garden Nursery and Baker Creek heirloom seeds (where it is listed as Kamo Kamo). I have not saved seeds from mine because we grow so many other squashes that cross-pollination is almost a certainty.
I hope you have enjoyed today’s Spotlight on a lovely heirloom squash variety. I’ll be back soon with more adventures.
To see my other Saturday Spotlights, visit the Variety Spotlights page.