Wednesday, 11 May 2011

A squash and a squeeze

I’ve gone mad with the squash and pumpkins again. Every year, I get tempted by new varieties and end up trying to grow around 20 squash plants in a  bed  whose dimensions are better suited to a dozen plants at most. I have my regulars: the green-skinned organge fleshed Berrettina Piacentina and Marina di Chioggia, both of which have dense flesh and a taste definitely reminiscent of sweet potato. They make wonderfully silky mash, roast to a lovely brown savouriness, and keep their shape well  when baked. They don't exude water either. Completely differently textured are the spaghetti squash, which can be baked then forked into strands and tossed in a pasta-style sauce – spaghetti squash carbonara and spaghetti squash arrabiatta are both delicious. Then there are the butternuts which tend to be smaller and so are useful as a sort of everyday squash: often cut into wedges and tucked beneath a Sunday roast.

They should be enough but my head has been turned this year by Black Futsu, the seeds for which I bought from Plants Of Distinction. This has knobbly skin like the Marina di Chioggia but is – supposedly – more compact in its habit than other varieties. Next up is the Connecticut squash from Pennard Plants, a heritage variety which is billed on the website as the ‘perfect Halloween pumpkin’and also the variety which greeted the Pilgrims when they arrived in north America from England. This year I’m also trying Crown Prince for the first time – I know everyone raves about the flavour so I thought it was time to see what the fuss was about – and an Atlantic Giant so that I can hold my own on the allotment next to all the other monster pumpkin growers. Quite often in the past my plot neighbours have peered at my pumpkin patch and said, “Yes, but they’re not very big, are they?”.

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