Wonderful Heirloom Winter Squash

These little pepos include a range of heirloom winter squash varieties perfect for growing and eating.

| May/June 2012

Of the fall and winter storage vegetables, winter squash is one of the easiest to grow, one of the few to form aboveground, and the only one that is actually a fruit. The fruit itself is known as a pepo — a modified or epigynous berry.

Many heirloom winter squash fruits are classified as small — under 5 to 6 pounds. All the plants are prodigious when it comes to vining, in some varieties a bit less so than their larger cousins. Heirloom semibush varieties exist, represented by summer squash, and clever plant breeders have created modern bush winter squashes.

One of the difficulties with hybrid winter squash is that the fruit often outweighs the everyday needs of a modern household, reaching 15 to 30 pounds or more.

Squash are a member of the Cucurbitaceae family, which consists of more than 800 species and is populated by such relatives as gourds, watermelons, cucumbers, winter melons, cantaloupes and gherkins. Generally these are vining plants of tropical or semitropical origin from the Old and New World. In other words, they like warmth and are frost sensitive. The Cucurbita genus is characterized by about 20 New World species, four of which are familiar to most of us through their edible fruits, including the pepo squash.

Native squash species

Many wild species are native to North America, especially Mexico. In the United States, these include Cucurbita foetidissima or the Missouri gourd; Cucurbita digitata or the finger-leaved gourd; Cucurbita palmata or the coyote melon; Cucurbita texana or Texas gourd; and the wild Cucurbita pepo.

Cucurbita pepo are classically thought of as the orange pumpkins and other winter squash such as acorn, spaghetti and delicata. Summer squash varieties including yellow summer squash, zucchini, pattypan, and bush scallop are part of the same group.

6/10/2014 5:51:17 AM

Great size!

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