Butternut squash bounty; also pumpkins

Bugle butternut squash (Cucurbita moschata).

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In the spring of 2016, I planted Bugle butternut squash seeds from John Scheepers Kitchen Garden Seeds. Above is an October 16 photo of the squash patch, which covered the mulched area near the front fence where the old maple tree stood until it died.

Kitchen Garden Seeds catalog reports that Bugle butternut squash is an improved variety from Cornell University that is resistant to powdery mildew. The catalog description mentions 5-pound fruits, but my largest weighed around 3 pounds. Maybe next year.

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The old maple tree mentioned above was taken down by the tree guys, after which the stump and roots were ground out by yet another tree guy, and we were left with a huge pile of wood chips. The area was an uneven mess with many maple roots still left to rot, so we decided to cover it with a thick layer of wood chips to aid the rotting process. After doing that, the area looked bare and in need of vegetation. First, we planted small American holly trees to get started on a new screen from the busy street just beyond. Then, we sank black grow bags into the mulch, filled them with good soil and compost, and planted pumpkins and butternut squash.

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The Kitchen Garden Seeds catalog describes Bugle butternut squash as having thick, meaty, sweet-nutty orange flesh and a small seed cavity. As can be seen above, that’s a pretty good description. Perfect for roasting, baking, or boiling.

The pumpkins were Baby Pam pie pumpkins from Johnny’s Selected Seeds, which unfortunately are no longer available. These were leftover seeds. The vines are compact and the pumpkins are small and delicious. 6 small pumpkins were harvested, 1 of which is seen in the photos above. Perfect. 3 for Thanksgiving, and 3 for Christmas. I made pumpkin bread from 1 pumpkin for Thanksgiving, and a pie with the other 2. I plan to do the same for Christmas. And of course the seeds, coated with olive oil and kosher salt and dried in a slow oven, are delicious. But I’ve grown pie pumpkins before, so they were not new to me. The butternut squash was the cause for celebration.

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I had never planted winter squash because there wasn’t room for them in the vegetable garden, so this was a new garden space to be utilized. In time, hopefully, the American holly trees will grow into a lovely screen and the area will turn into more of a woodland area with trees, shrubs, and flowers. But for another year at least, it will be dedicated to squash and pumpkins. Next spring, we are thinking of burying sawed-off tops of old trashcans in the mulch, instead of grow bags, filling them with good soil and compost, and planting the squash and pumpkins in them. The butternut squash has quite long tap roots that burrowed through the bottoms of the grow bags. This is the reason, I think, that the squash was so prolific.

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The local supermarkets had butternut squash for $1.49 a pound in season. I figure that the above photo of this summer’s crop represents around 25 pounds of squash. $37.50, or thereabouts. Not bad for the price of a packet of seed. I don’t usually think of the vegetable garden in economic terms. I prefer to think about quality of food, and of course good exercise and peacefulness, but this easy calculation gave me an additional reason for happiness about the vegetable garden.

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So far, I’ve made a stew with pork loin, pinto beans, tomato sauce, peppers, and squash, as seen above. The pinto beans are from Gold Mine Natural Foods, which is an exceptional source for quality beans and rice. The tomatoes and peppers were from the garden, via the freezer. And, of course, storage onions and garlic from the garden are always part of a stew. I don’t think the pinto beans were added to the stew yet when the photo above was taken. They were probably still cooking separately.

I also tried a lamb stew with squash and chickpeas–chickpeas also from Gold Mine. I made puréed squash soup. Also a risotto with squash and bacon. For Thanksgiving, I made a simple mashed squash dish with nothing but butter and salt and pepper, baked covered in the oven in a little water until tender and mashed with a potato masher. That was my favorite since it allowed the squash flavor to shine without distraction.

I’m still planning to try a butternut macaroni-and-cheese recipe. Also a roasted squash and red onion dish with pine nuts. Most of these squash recipes are from the NY Times, which is good about showcasing recipes of vegetables in season. I always manage to substitute and embellish of course.

Butternut squash is a great winter vegetable, nutritious and filling, a beautiful color addition to any menu, and an excellent storage keeper through the winter months. Can’t ask for more from a vegetable than that.

 

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