This is the latest in a series of posts that I’ve done about my favorite varieties of fruits, vegetables and herbs we grow at Happy Acres. To see my other Spotlights, and those from other garden bloggers, visit the Variety Spotlights page.
Today’s Spotlight is on Tatume, a Mexican heirloom squash I’ve been growing for several years now. It’s a prolific producer of softball sized fruits that can be used as either a summer or a winter squash, though I usually use them at the immature stage. This round to slightly elongated squash has been a staple of Mexican cuisine for centuries, where it is also known as calabacita (little pumpkin). Its drought and heat tolerance make it a popular choice for growing in Texas and the U.S. Southwest. It definitely does well for me here in our hot and humid summers, and keeps going long after many other squashes have bit the dust.
Tatume is an open-pollinated variety of the species Cucurbita pepo, a species which also includes most summer squash plus a few winter types. Tatume plants make vigorous vines and will cover a large area if not contained. I’ve seen reports that they are somewhat resistant to squash vine borers, but since they are not usually a problem here I can’t really vouch for that. Squash bugs are a real problem here though, and Tatume seems to hold up well against them.
In years past, I just let the vines sprawl on the ground or climb up the garden fencing. In the photo below from a few years back the plants had been in the ground for about five weeks, and you can see how big they were already. The vines can easily get over ten feet in length, though they can be pruned to encourage branching out.
This year I put up a trellis for them using 4×8 foot remesh panels that I secured to metal t-posts using zip ties. I set out the seedlings 6 weeks ago, and when the vines started to run I guided them to the trellis and they quickly began climbing their way to the top. I plan on pruning the tips of the vines to help keep them under control.
In the kitchen, the young Tatume can be used much like you would a zucchini. The shape also lends itself to scooping the inside out, stuffing with the filling of your choice, and then roasting. The flesh of the immature Tatume is meaty and a bit drier than most zucchini, with a mild, sweet taste. My favorite way to prepare them is to cut them into 1/4 inch thick slices, sprinkle with a little salt and pepper, and then grill them. When mature, the fruits keep for several months and can be roasted or baked like other winter squashes.
I hope you have enjoyed this spotlight on a little known heirloom squash. Seeds for Tatume squash are available from several sources in the U.S. In 2018 there were listings for them at Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, Victory Seeds and Pinetree Garden Seeds. I’ll be back soon with another variety to spotlight.