Wonderful Heirloom Winter Squash
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Heirloom winter squash varieties: down to specifics
Many pepo squash are excellent keepers. I have had fruits of acorn squash last into June, and they reliably keep until spring.
One of the smaller pumpkins that has gained considerable notoriety in recent years is Winter Luxury Pie, first introduced in 1893 by the Philadelphia seed company, Johnson and Stokes, and in 1894 by Livingston Seed Co. as Livingston’s Pie Squash. As the story goes, it was found in a field by one of Livingston’s customers and cultivated by him for many years. It is uniquely netted (white) somewhat like a cantaloupe, without strongly pronounced ribs, and was originally golden yellow.
The current orange variety was introduced in 1920 by Gill Bros. Like most pumpkins, it forms fairly large plants, yielding three or four fruits per vine. Small for a pumpkin, the fruit can weigh up to 8 pounds in good soil, though many specimens are smaller. While it exceeds my criteria for a small squash, it is worth noting for its distinct pumpkin quality. Winter Luxury Pie is without a doubt a wonderful eating pumpkin with moderately sweet, thick flesh that makes excellent pies.
Another pumpkin of note is the Small Sugar, otherwise known as New England Pie Pumpkin, which remains quite popular in the Northeast. This pumpkin is classically orange, with a globe shape flattened at the bottom and visible ribbing.
Its history is unclear, although it was popularly cultivated by 1860 in New England and was the preeminent variety recommended for pies in the 19th century and early 20th century. Fruits are smaller than Winter Luxury, around 5 pounds and as small as 3 pounds. The flesh is smooth, moderately sweet and makes good pumpkin pies. The small size also makes it suitable for table arrangements and soup bowls, albeit for one-time use.
Introduced in 1894 by Peter Henderson and Co. of New York, Delicata — aka Sweet Potato or Peanut — was touted as one of the earliest maturing vine squash. The fruits are small, pale yellow, cylindrical, and ribbed with green stripes in the furrows that turn orange during storage. The fairly thin skin is somewhat edible, and the flesh is orange and sweet. They are 1 to 2 pounds, although large specimens may reach 3 pounds.
Delicata and its related types quickly went out of fashion shortly after introduction, perhaps because of the small size and thin flesh. They typically keep for just a few months.
During the last couple of decades, they have been widely grown and are thus well-known. American Cookery: The Boston Cooking-School Magazine from 1918 suggests they be served on toast like asparagus, in cream sauce, or au gratin with cheese sauce. Because of their small size and sweetness, they can be sliced, steamed and ready for action in 10 minutes, which is my favorite method of preparation and consumption.