Meet The Cushaw Squash

Early fall is one of my favorite times of the year, the weather is perfect, the leaves are changing, and squash is bountiful!

The beautiful and alluring, Cushaw Squash is a huge valued crop, because it is inexpensive and stores for about four months. They average about 10-20 pounds, grow to 12-18 inches in length, and can be 10 inches in width at the bulb, in total, more substantial than a newborn child! The flesh is light yellow, and the flavor is mildly sweet. It’s crookneck in shape, with a bent top, and it can be green, white, orange, or striped. You know the one. It caught your eye at the market.

Cushaw, an American heirloom not usually found outside North America though, like me, the Cushaw is the only slightly ordinary member of its vast family. This hot, climate-loving squash species cultivated in warmer parts of the world like Mexico, but some say they originated in the West Indies. There are arguments that Native Americans initially cultivated varieties as a staple. In some U.S regions,it is often referred to as a Cushaw Pumpkin, Appalachia, or a Tennessee Sweet Potato.

Cushaw behaves like a pumpkin, when cooked. High in vitamins A and C, which make it excellent for our immune systems. You can enjoy this squash raw, so pop some on the holiday veggie platter this year.

Regardless of the type, they are all uniform in flavor, making excellent pies, muffins, cakes, quick breads as well as soups or hearty main dishes. Wash whole, cut into large chunks and remove the skin after cooking; it’s really so much more manageable.

Recipe Ideas:

I love to roast chunks on a generously oiled stainless steel sheet pan with a sprinkle of salt. Preheat the oven to 425′ F Degrees for a deep caramelization- flipping a few times through this cooking process and season with salt on every turn. After they caramelize, reduce oven to 325′ F Degrees and continue to roast until tender. I also blast them with fresh sage, thyme, and a sprinkle of brown sugar the last ten minutes of cooking unless I am using them for baking. You can also mash with butter, pumpkin spices, cream, or non-dairy nut milk for a whipped side dish.

I love to roll this delicate delicious seasoned flesh in yeasted bread or Phyllo dough and bake again to spin-off a delicious cheese pie ( from Moldovan,) now a part of Romania.

This squash also freezes well, and the fresh cut cubes won’t stick together, so no need for individual freezing of chunks before freezer packing.

Choose squash that has deep-colored rinds, free of blemishes, or moldy spots.Cushaws are highly pest resistant-so you can rest easy this crop rarely gets sprayed with pesticides.

Varieties

Green-Striped Cushaw:

This green and white squash of the South is also known as the Tennessee sweet potato squash and valued in hotter areas as an all-around squash for desserts or vegetable dishes. Native Americans – both South and north of the border – have grown this large, squash-bug and vine-borer-resistant variety since prehistoric times – possibly as far back as 7000 BC. Some describe it as having a slightly sweet, mild smoky taste frequently preferred as a substitute for pumpkin in pumpkin pies.

White Cushaw:

The white Cushaw is another of the rarer varieties of cushaw squash. This plant produces enormous, mildly sweet, and nutty fruits with orange flesh that is excellent cooked or raw. It also provides mounds of large seeds that make great, healthy snacks when roasted. Like most cushaws, this variety is pest-resistant and keeps very well. It is easy to grow, holds up well in the heat, and produces prolifically. It is sometimes called the “Jonathan Pumpkin.”

Seminole Pumpkin:

“Seminole Pumpkin” is another cushaw squash – despite the name. The Seminole tribe, of what is now Florida, grew this smaller-sized squash as a staple part of their diet. It grows well in moist, humid environments where other squashes do not fare so well. This firm-fleshed, sweet variety is also resistant to powdery mildew, which is a significant problem for many squashes.

Golden Cushaw:

Beautiful golden-orange colored squash with deep orange flesh. Do not confuse it with the C. mixta variety called gold-striped Cushaw, a variety visually identical to the green-striped Cushaw except for the beautiful golden stripes. The golden Cushaw has sweet flesh reminiscent of sweet potatoes and is very high in many nutrients! Yes, please!

 

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