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.
You guys should publish a combination gardening and recipe book. I made your cottage cheese spinach pie again last night— great recipe.
Lisa, I’m glad you liked the spinach pie! I could eat some for breakfast this morning if we had it.
As for a recipe and gardening book, I think there are already plenty of good ones out there and I’m not sure how much I could add to the mix. I’m happy doing the blog and with an occasional article contribution elsewhere. Thanks for your kind words!
It looks beautiful. I keep looking for a squash to add on to my beloved butternut squash, but haven’t found another c. moschata that performs well here (it has to grow under the corn in our garden, so needs to do well in light shade). The SVB is so bad I need to use that species. I’m guessing yours is a c. pepo?
Yes, it is c. pepo. The vines are not what I would call well-behaved, as they vined in two directions and ran over anything in their way!
Nice post. I love photos of squash. I like to grow and photograph squash almost more than eat them. This is a variety that I haven’t heard of. I wonder if it has some Trombocino in its heritage. That is one rampant vine, but it makes great squash, really long narrow fruit. My garden space is still too full of winter veggies to think about planting summer crops.
Lou, I’ve grown Tromboncino, and you are so right about it being a rampant grower! I do believe Kumi Kumi could give it a run for the money though.
I’ve ordered some seeds for this squash and look forward to trying new variety. squashes don’t really do well here but I want to try it anyway.
Great post Dave! I might have to give this one a try some year. We are not huge fans of winter squash but I can see some benefit to growing one that can be used as both summer and winter squash. It’s a very pretty squash, if nothing else my wife would love to use it for her fall decorating.
Do you have any tips for me growing winter squash in our local climate? I grew up in the arid west, where all you have to do is throw out the seeds and the squash go crazy! But in my little garden here in Newburgh I have really struggled to get squash to flourish. Between the rain and the bugs and the heat I have had my plants die every year before the winter squash could grow mature. Any suggestions or advice you have would be VERY much appreciated, because winter squash is my favorite food!
Gardening here can be a challenge, that’s for sure. Most of the winter squash I grow handle the heat pretty well. Our soil drains fast, so rainy conditions usually aren’t a problem. Compost is my magic fix for everything, and I always put a shovel full of it where I’m planting the squash and work it in the soil before planting. That helps drainage if the soil is heavy and adds nutrients and organic matter.
As for bugs, if the vine suddenly wilts then it’s usually either squash vine borer or the small cucumber beetle that has spread bacterial wilt. For SVB, the key is to plant resistant varieties like Butternut or other moschata varieties. For cucumber beetle, spraying with pyrethrins and neem oil will help if you’re growing organic or with Sevin/carbaryl if you’re not. The same sprays work for squash bugs too, which look like stink bugs and suck the sap out of the plants. You need to start spraying as soon as you see the bugs.
Also, I mulch all my summer and winter squashes with sheets of newspaper that I cover with straw. That also helps keep moisture in the soil if we have a dry spell.
I think I may have asked you this already, but is the Kumi Kumi almost the same as Tatume at young summer squash stage? As far as texture, taste and amount produced, how do they compare? I see Kumi Kumi is different as a winter squash, as it is orange, instead of yellow flesh like Tatume, but the young squash look very similar. Tatume has produced very well for me on a trellis in my greenhouse the last couple years and this year I decided to try Kumi Kumi, but wonder if I should also start some Tatume.
I think the immature Kumi Kumi and Tatume are very similar in taste and texture. The Kumi Kumi increases in size pretty quickly, so you have to watch and harvest them before the rind starts to thicken and the squash gets big.
Thanks again Dave. I will pick them small.