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ingincoldmud andgrowingvigorouslyincool weather. The plants have big vines that run 20 feet in all directions. However, the commercial ‘SweetMeat’hasdeterioratedandnolongerhas thickflesh,bigseeds,oranabilitytoexcelintypical Oregon spring weather. I searched for years tofindalinethatwasstillnottoobadlydeteriorated, then reselected it for the original virtues. Theresults,afterafewyearsandmorethanaton of squash, is ‘Sweet Meat–Oregon Homestead’ (seenote10-2). WithallothervarietiesofsquashIhavegrown, theimmatureorundersizedlatefruitsonthevine don’tkeepwell.However,eventheimmatureand subprimefruitsof‘SweetMeat’keepwell.They don’t continue to sweeten as prime fruits do. Buttheydon’tdeteriorateeither.Whenproperly harvested and stored, nearly every‘Sweet Meat’ willkeepwithoutlosingqualityuntilthefollowingsummerorevenlonger.Thefactthateventhe culls of ‘Sweet Meat’ keep well matters. Those cullsareoneofthemajorfoodsformyduckflock inwinterandspring. Using ‘Sweet Meet’. Eat no ‘Sweet Meat’ before its time. I follow the old Oregon tradition,andopenthefirstofthe‘SweetMeats’for Thanksgiving.Iopenthesquashwithabigbowie knifeandarubbermalletsoastogetexacthalves. Many people open them with a hatchet. (The thick,leatheryskinplusthickfleshareabitmuch foranordinarykitchenknife.) One traditional way of fixing ‘Sweet Meat’ is tocutitinto3-inchsquares—whichare2to3½ inchesdeep,dependinguponjustwheretheywere onthefruit—thenbakethesquares,fleshsideup. Prepared this way, the outside of the flesh dries andcaramelizesandislikecandy,withaninner coreofsoft,sweetsquash.Suchchunksof‘Sweet
Meat’areoftentakentopotlucksandserved,hot orcold,asfingerfood. Myusualapproach,however,istobakea‘Sweet Meat’ by cutting it in half, removing the seeds, and placing the two halves cut side down on a bakingsheetandbakingat350°Funtilthesquash issoftallthewaythrough.(Iusearackposition midwayintheoven.)Idon’tscrapeorcleanthe fruit’sinsidesurfacebeforecooking;Ijustremove theseeds.Thecoarserfleshneartheseedcavity helpsprotecttherestfromdryingoutandiseasier toremovewhencooked.Thesquashpartlybakes andpartlysteams.Thehalvesgenerallytake1½ to2½hours.Afterthesquashissoftalltheway through when poked with a fork, I remove the baking sheet with the squash, chop off what is wantedfortheimmediatemeal,andsettherest asidetocool. I usually mash ‘Sweet Meat’ with a little salt andbutter,thoughitalsotastesgreat justplain. Adding sugar is overkill and would make the squash overly sweet. In fact, sometimes I take
Boiling or Steaming Cut Squash
Don’t. Boiling or steaming cut squash or squash chunks is how to turn a delicious, gourmet-quality, perfectly cured, prime winter squash into watery pulp little better than commercial canned pumpkin. If you’re going to go to the trouble of growing good wintersquash,gotothetroubletoprepareit properly—thatis,bybakingor,inthecaseof smallersquashes,byprickingthemandboiling themwhole.Smallersquashorpumpkinscan alsobeprickedandbakedwhole.
The Resilient Gardener
theoppositeapproachandmakeLemony‘Sweet Meat’ or Limey ‘Sweet Meat’, in which I add butter, salt, and a little fresh-squeezed lemon or limejuiceforadelightfulsweet-and-soureffect. SometimesIuseapintoffrozen‘SweetMeat’as the basis for a sweet-and-sour stir-fry or a hotand-sweet-and-soursoup.Thisvarietyisalsothe squashIusuallyuseforpies.
I usually don’t grow hybrid varieties, as they aren’tcompatiblewithmydesiretosavemyown seeds.Inaddition,thebesthybridsquashgenerallydon’thavetheflavorandqualityofthebest open-pollinated lines. ‘Sunshine F1’, a brilliant red,disc-shapedsquashbredbyRobJohnstonof Johnny’sSelectedSeeds,isanexception.Itweighs about3to5poundsandisalittlemoisterthan ‘Sweet Meat’. The flesh is just as fine-textured, however,andalmostassweet.Theflavorissomewhat different but equally delicious. ‘Sunshine’ istheonlyredsquashI’veeverhadthatistopquality.(‘RougeVifd’Etampes’,forexample,is equally scarlet but is coarse in texture, watery, and lacking in flavor. ‘Delicious’ isn’t especially delicious;neitheris‘BostonMarrow’.)Theflesh thickness of ‘Sunshine’ is comparable to the better squash of its size. ‘Sunshines’ keep until JanuarywhenharvestedandcuredasIdescribe, onlyimprovinginqualitytheentiretime.(They deteriorate rapidly thereafter.) ‘Sunshine’ fruits haveamedium-thickleatheryskinthatiseasyto cutopenwithoutresortingtoheroictactics.The plantisearlyandisavigoroushalf-bushtype.It canproduceprimesquashhereinOregonevenin coolsummersoronlimitedwater. Welikethemaxpartofoursquashpatchtohave plentyof‘Sunshines’aswellas‘SweetMeats’.The
‘SweetMeat’isafull-seasonsquashthatproduces themostfoodthemostefficientlyinmostyears. But sometimes circumstances don’t cooperate, and we don’t really have a full season. In those years, the ‘Sweet Meats’ may not fully mature. ‘Sunshine’givesusthosespectacularflashesofred inthepumpkinpatchatharvesteachyear,butis alsowhatwedependupontoproducegourmetqualitysquashevenfromalateplantingorwhen theseasonistruncatedorthingsgowrong.‘Sweet Meat’ makes superb squash only when it’s well grown. ‘Sunshine’, on the other hand, seems to makesuperbsquashevenwhenpoorlygrown. One year Nate grew a dryland garden here in maritime Oregon, where it doesn’t rain all summer. He bucket-irrigated each squash plant twice—that is, gave each plant two buckets of water twice during the season, for a total of 20 gallons per plant. The buckets were 5-gallon bucketswithsmallpinholesinthemthatfedthe wateroutslowly.Mostsquashplantsofmostvarieties were so stunted using this growing system that they produced nothing. The ‘Sweet Meat’ and the ‘Sunshine’, however, both produced decent amounts of good-looking fruits, in spite ofthewaterlimitation.The‘SweetMeat’fruits, though,weresubprimeandinferior.Wefedthem all to the ducks and Nate’s cow and pig. The ‘Sunshines’wereprime.Theotherwintersquash that produced prime fruit under these conditions was ‘Katy Stokes’ Sugar Meat’. (‘Sweet Meat’–finished pork, by the way, is spectacularly delicious. The meat is actually sweet, and thedistinctiveflavorandaromaofthesquashis unmistakable.) In2009,whenNateandIgotsuchalatestart onournewlyleasedland,weplantedfewer‘Sweet Meats’andmore‘Sunshines’.Weweren’tsurewe
Squash and Pumpkins
wouldhaveenoughtimeforthe‘SweetMeats’to fully mature. That proved to be a good choice. Ontopofthelatestart,wehadacoolsummer. The‘SweetMeats’thatyearweregoodcompared with most squash but not nearly what they can be—notprime.The‘Sunshines’,though,wereas spectacularasever.
‘Katy Stokes’ Sugar Meat’
lost in marketing.) Nichols, with Katy’s concurrence, has subsequently changed the name to ‘Katy Stokes’ Sugar Meat’. ‘Katy Stokes’ Sugar Meat’isacompletelynew,uniquevariety,witha differentsizeandflavorfrom‘SweetMeat’,and with its own special virtues. Market growers as wellasgardenersshouldtakenote.
OregonianKatyStokesmaintainedherownline of ‘Sweet Meat’, and each year as she ate the squash,shesavedseedfromtheverysweetestfruit. I believe‘Katy Stokes’ Sugar Meat’ represents a cross between ‘Sweet Meat’ and a smaller blue squash,whichKatyStokesthenstabilized.‘Sugar Meat’plantsarevigorousvines.Thefruitsareless thanhalfthesizeof‘SweetMeat’,running5–12 pounds.Thefleshisasthickasothervarietiesits sizeandis,ifanything,sweetereventhan‘Sweet Meat’. The flavor of ‘Sugar Meat’ is excellent, muchbetterthanthatofmostsquash,andright up there in that elite league with‘Sweet Meat’, ‘Buttercup’, and ‘Sunshine’. I prefer the more multidimensional flavor of well-grown ‘Sweet Meat’,aswellasitssizeandthicknessofflesh— inagoodyear.However,‘SugarMeat’squashare considerablybetterthan‘SweetMeat’inabadyear. IntheyearofNate’sdrylandgardenexperiment, withthesquashlimitedto20gallonsofwaterper plant for the season, ‘Katy Stokes’ Sugar Meat’ (along with ‘Sunshine’) produced prime food, whilethe‘SweetMeats’wereusedonlyforsavory dishesandduckfood. ‘Katy Stokes’ Sugar Meat’ was initially introduced by Nichols Garden Nursery under the name‘Katy’sSweetSweetMeat’.Itisbecoming popularinmarketsaroundhereas‘SweetMeat’, which causes confusion. (Modifiers tend to get
Thissquashisanall-timeclassicheirloomsquash. Itisablocky,darkgreensquashof3to5pounds withabuttonattheend.‘Buttercup’isavigorous, productivevine.It’sgenerallybetterqualitythan mostofthevariantButtercupvarietiesthathave beenbredandintroducedsince.
There are many Hubbard varieties that are especially popular in New England, with ‘Blue Hubbard’theonemostmentionedwithrespectto quality.Thename‘Hubbard’seemstorepresenta shape—fat in the middle and pointy at the two ends—more than a genetic ancestry.Traditional Hubbard varieties were big squash, with some varietiesgoingto50poundsormore.Theclassic‘BlueHubbard’hasfleshabout1to1½inches thickandarich,distinctiveflavor.Therearenow alsomanysmallerHubbardvarieties. In my Oregon garden, ‘Sweet Meat–Oregon Homestead’faroutperformsanyofahalfdozen Hubbard varieties I have tried, for quantity of flesh per weight of fruit, sweetness, flavor, finegrainedtexture,andkeepingability.Ialsoprefer thethick,leatheryskinofthe‘SweetMeat’tothe hardshelloftheHubbard.The‘SweetMeat’skin is thick enough to give good protection to the fruitbutcanstillbeeatenbylivestocksuchaspigs andmilkcows.Myduckscleanupallthebitsof
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