A blog of hopeful, inspired living: cooking & baking & growing & harvesting & preserving & gleaning & eating & sharing food... while bringing positive change to my kitchen and our food system.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Mystery squash

Keeping up with what was going on in the new greenhouse at work was difficult last spring with 9 staff, an incomplete irrigation system and hundreds of small children, community members and volunteers cycling through.  After rearranging greenhouse tables several times and lots of lost plant markers, nearly all the squash and pumpkins were mysteries.  I was frustrated that I'd lost track of some heirloom seedlings:  Lakota squash and giant pink banana squash specifically.  The mystery squash plants sat in the greenhouse longer than they should have, until a motivated staff member cleared a weedy section of the garden near the road and planted all of them (thanks, Justin!).  During the summer many of them thrived and we harvested great Cinderella, sugar and Howden pumpkins, lots of spaghetti squash and delicata.  After the big harvest day, all the squash were piled up in our outdoor kitchen for distribution and admiring.  Three unfamiliar squash were left abandoned back by the road, where I drove by them numerous times before stopping and lugging them to my car.   While I never found the giant banana squash,  I finally got what I believed to be Lakotas -- two of them.  Strange-looking to harvesters that day, these were two of the abandoned, lonely squash.  The last was an unidentifiable, smooth-skinned, oblong, orange 16-pound pumpkin-like squash.  What are you?  I wondered. 

16-pound mystery squash
Not one to be put off by ridiculous amounts of home-grown produce, I hauled the 22 pounds of squash into my kitchen and got to work.   I was inspired by friend Rowen White's facebook post about her 30 pound Autumnal Marrow squash and all the recommendations that followed for what to do with it all: squash and potato gratin with fresh sage and pine nuts and Brussels sprout leaves sprinkled throughout; squash ravioli; pasta sauce with baked squash, roasted garlic, olive oil, a splash of white wine & Parmesan; squash and black bean empanadas... wow!  I added a couple of my go-to recipes to the list: Sunset Magazine's delicious Wild Rice, Butternut Squash, and Cannellini Stew and a take off of the Post-Punk Kitchen's Butternut Rancheros.  (I pretty much follow the Sunset recipe as is, but for the rancheros, I eliminate the tomato sauce and sweetener, add fresh diced tomatoes (when available) as well as a lot of other sauteed veggies: peppers, zucchini, mushrooms, etc. and serve with quinoa on the side, or mixed in).  

ready for roasting
Most of the recipes I used called for squash, identifiable as squash -- baked, sauteed, boiled in a soup.  As I continued my squash project, I became nervous that my squash would go bad before I used it all (eek!) and began baking it and then pureeing and freezing (for the record, this squash took forever to bake -- nearly 2 hours at 375 degrees F).  It was worth it -- I came across some other delicious recipes for pureed squash, including Heidi Swanson's delicious Brown Butter Spice Cake.  YUM.  Bill was the one to try a piece of this toasted with butter and kumquat jam -- a winner. 
Mystery Squash Soup w pepitas

Another tasty treat was a Spicy Pumpkin Soup recipe from Simply Recipes, that worked out great with the mystery squash (BTW, it tasted great with or without the milk/ cream).  
My two little Lakota squash

It's going to be squash planting time again real soon... I'm looking forward to trying an Autumnal Marrow from Rowen (also, psst -- check out her new Sierra Seed Co-op, super cool!), as well as the Candy Roaster, the Upper Ground Sweet Potato Squash, Red Kuri, Blue Hubbard and another Lakota from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds.  If you're not familiar with Baker Creek, I recommend requesting a catalog to drool over while dreaming of spring.   If you live nearby, come by to start some seeds with me (we'll label them well this year!)!


  1. This is a fun post. I am so jealous of your growing season. But! I have been jazzed for weeks now-- they are opening a CSA across the street from me this Spring! It is going to be a beautiful season.

  2. That's awesome! How wonderful to have a CSA right across the street from your home!!! What's the name of the farm?