Winter Squash harvest, various sorts including Hubbard, Berlin, CT, 1939. LOC.
An article published in 1871, quoted Dalechamps (1586) saying the C. verrucosa was a sort of winter squash, and, “in the small warted pumpkin of Nantucket Dr. Harris was inclined to suspect that he had found the true species. From this peculiar variety, so universally raised on that island, and supposed to have come from the Indians, may have originated our present field pumpkins, frequently planted among the hills of Indian corn, and considered a part of the crop.” – The New American Cyclopedia. 1871. NY.
The Valparaiso was supposedly introduced by Commodore Porter of the U.S. Navy, and was said to come from that family of winter squash. Through hybridization the writer thought the marrow and autumnal marrow also descended from it. “The marrow squash, which is really a pumpkin”, can be kept for winter use. It was compared to the Hubbard and said to keep as well.
The true winter squash is represented in the bell-shaped species, the base being very broad and the neck very short. From this have come the crook-neck and the Canada crook-neck, the latter is a small sub-variety…Champlain found the bell-shaped winter squash among the northern Indians in 1605. – The New American Cyclopedia. 1871. NY.
In April 1856, a request was published asking for advice on the winter squash which kept the best and the longest over winter to which the editor advised the Canada Crook-Neck. The following month, a reader replied that the Hubbard kept much longer.
This squash is a hard shelled variety, the shell of pure specimens being nearly one-eighth of an inch in thickness. In size it is about one-third heavier than the pure marrow, weighing about nine lbs. when fully grown. Its color is greenish black, and when grown under favorable circumstances, lead color. It is a fine grained, of excellent flavor, very sweet and very “mealy.” The only objections I have ever heard made against it, were on the part of some that it was too sweet, and by others, that it was too dry. A first-rate specimen tastes much like a boiled chestnut, and will make a very fair pie without sweetening. They are driest late in the fall, and sweetest towards spring.
Respecting their keeping qualities, I have kept specimens in a cool dry place, till May. The last sound specimen of last season’s crop, I brought to the table towards the close of April…A farmer, who for the past two years has raised this variety for the market, informs me that he has sold it at double the price per lb. of the pure marrow, to customers who have once tested its quality. – Cole, Samuel. The New England Farmer. May 1856.
In Jan. 1856, in the same publication, the marrow, custard, and acorn were also recommended, “but they are not usually raised extensively for market”.
Baked pumpkin and milk, pumpkin sauce, and dried pumpkin for winter use have had their day, and gone out of fashion and pumpkin pies are now mostly made of the autumnal marrow and crook-necked winter squashes, except by some of the old folks, who still prefer the pumpkin, baked in a milk-pan and without any pastry. The New England “crook-neck squash”, as it is commonly but incorrectly called is a kind of pumpkin, perhaps a genuine species, for it has preserved its identity to our certain knowledge ever since the year 1686, when it was described by Ray. It has the form and color of the Cashaw, but is easily distinguished there from by the want of a persistent stile, and by its clavated and furrowed fruit stem. Before the introduction of the Autumnal Marrow, it was raised in large quantities for table use during the winter, in preference to pumpkins…The best kinds are those which are very much curved, nearly as large at the stem as at the blossom end, and of a rich cream color. Some are green, variegated with cream colored stripes and spots. Some are bell-shaped, or with a very short and straight neck, and are less esteemed than the others; for the neck being solid and of fine texture, is the best part of the fruit…It is said to degenerate in the Middle and Southern States, where probably Commodore Porter’s Valparaizo or some kindred variety may be better adapted to the climate. – The Farm Journal and Progressive Farmer. May 1855.
The Early Canada was a dark and dirty buff color externally, and much esteemed as a table vegetable. The custard squash was oblong, deeply furrowed, and prominently ten-ribbed with a pale buff and very hard rind, and fine, light yellow flesh, much esteemed for making pies and puddings. The Boston marrowfat, “when properly baked”, was compared favorably to the sweet potato in 1845.
A farmer reported in the Ohio Cultivator he’d grown 30 types of squash and found only five equal to, or superior to, the Boston Marrow, or King Marrow, so popular in the eastern markets. Those were the Hubbard, the Mexican Cushaw, (a very large long squash with rough netted surface…remarkably sweet, pleasant flavor…a profuse bearer and a good keeper), the Sweet-potato squash (small, round, green colored; it is very dry and sweet, a good keeper and fair bearer), the Pineapple Squash (one of the best summer and a first rate winter squash, small weighing from two to eight pounds, color light yellow). He also recommended the cheese pumpkin, cocoanut, acorn, California and Valparaiso varieties. – Jan. 1860.
In Illinois, (1863) the most desirable winter squash were listed as the Hubbard and the Boston marrow. – Transactions of the Illinois State Horticultural Society.
The Yokohama from Japan was said to have been brought to this country about 1860, and there were both American and French turbans. – Gregory, James. Squashes: How to Grow Them; A Practical Treatise on Squash Culture.
Another source said the French turban was actually the acorn of America, and the Valparaiso cushaw was cultivated in Louisiana more than 100 years earlier. It was mentioned by Le Page du Pratz in his Historie de la Louisiane, Vol. ii, p. 11. – Pennsylvania Farm Journal. Vol. 3 & 4. 1853.
Farmers commonly notified magazines and newspapers that a variety had originated with them when two established varieties inadvertently crossed and usually when such happenings were reported it was with a variety they found promising, the failures discarded as just that. Farmers were cautioned against planting varieties too close together to prevent such cross-polination.
After establishing the most appreciated varieties in various locales, let’s take a look at how the squash were being prepared for table. Beginning with Sarah J. Hale in 1857, she instructed to, “Pare it, cut it in pieces, take out the seeds and strings, boil it in a very little water till it is quite soft. Then press out the water, mash it, and add butter, salt and pepper to your taste”. Mrs. Hale’s New Cook Book.
Because winter squash is difficult to peel, it’s not surprising that some writers began to instruct that it need not be peeled before boiling as it could easily be removed from the rind after it was cooked using a spoon to scoop the flesh. – St. Paul’s Church. A New Daily Food. Morrisania, NY.
It is amusing to read the various ways women found to open up a winter squash. It, “has to be broken with a hatchet, by dropping on a plank floor, or by sawing with the meat saw”. – Kingsley Methodist Church. The Milwaukee Cook Book. Milwaukee, Wis. 1907.
Mary Randolph advised in 1838 the best variety was the crooked neck and it should be cut in slices an inch thick then take off the rind. It was to boil in salted water, drain, and before serving piping hot, the cook was to hit it with a shot of melted butter. The Virginia Housewife. 1838. Baltimore.
Variations included steaming the squash so that it didn’t take on the water as when it was boiled in water, or baking it. Lettice Bryan split the peeled neck of the squash and placed a piece of pork on top to roast, “The essence of the meat, that exudes from it while baking, will season the squash sufficiently”. Another version was to stuff the cavity of the squash with sausage and bake it until very tender, sending it to table in the pan in which it was baked. – The Kentucky Housewife. 1839.