Monday, November 16, 2009

Researching the Squash

As reported earlier, our pumpkin plants didn't make it this summer. Whether or not it was the extremely hot and humid Tokyo summer or late planting wasn't immediately clear. However, while reading an article from Organic Gardening about Heirloom Pumpkins, the answer seems to be emerging.

Variety
Amy Goodman, author and an heirloom enthusiast/expert, explains in her article that there are varieties of squash better suited to a tropical environment. Cucurbits moschata (think butternut) specializes in growing in hot tropical areas. (The light bulb is blazing over my head.) A little research on Seed Savers Exchange, Wikipedia, Google, and whatever other resources I can harness while without an English library revealed to me that this could be the answer to my question. The following is a list of Japanese heirlooms (with one exception) that I hope to find this spring and give a shot.

Futsu
A unique Japanese heirloom squash that I've not yet seen here. I learned about it in a roundabout way after reading the above article in Organic Gardening. It looks and sounds delicious, and I'm quite hopeful to find seeds here for spring planting.

Shishigatani
One of the coolest looking vegetables I've not met yet here in Japan. I'm hopeful, again, to find seeds locally rather than ordering from an American seed company.

Kikuza
Another one that I'm dying to find the seeds for locally, and then grow and eat. The description in this seed catalog made my mouth water!

Chiriman
A squash I, again, don't believe I've met yet here, but I can hardly wait. (It seems I may only be growing squash next year...) This lengthy article in Mother Earth News is some of the best information yet that I've found about heirloom varieties of squash for Japan. It also happens to hit on all the things that I LOVE about heirloom varieties, so I fell hook, line and sinker for this one.

Long Island Cheese
Perhaps the squash listed here with the most unfortunate name, this is the one I'll grow if all else fails for some reason or another. Not a Japanese heirloom but still one with a great little history, this squash sounds quite promising for its tasty flesh, charming appearance, and great texture.

A Good Read?
Amy Goldman, author of several books on heirloom vegetables including her most recent one about heirloom tomatoes, wrote one about squash appropriately titled The Compleat Squash: A Passionate Grower's Guide to Pumpkins, Squashes, and Gourds. It sounds like recommended reading for an heirloom grower, and I'm giving it some thought.

8 comments:

Jen of A2eatwrite said...

Then there were the 30 lb. zucchinis Deb Lentz brought to the Slow Food Cook-off... they were interesting, indeed!

I'd love to see pictures of any native varieties you find.

JoanBailey said...

Wish I could have seen that! I'm heading to the Tokyo Farmer's Market (Earth Day Market) this Sunday, so hopefully I'll spot some there for photos, eating, and seed collecting. Thanks for reading, Jen!

Daniel said...

Our pumpkins did pretty well, and as usual, they came out of the compost pile.

We toss out the pumpkin seeds from the ones we buy at the store, and we get several healthy plants that grow out of the compost every spring.

The inoshishi got several of them before we found ways to keep them out of the garden, rusty metal bits and rags soaked in gasoline, and then later a dog, but we had a good pumpkin year. My wife may have bought a couple, but mostly we ate what we grew. We live in Mie Prefecture.

Garden Wise Guy said...
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Farmer Demmon said...

I've grown Black Futsu here in Michigan, it does great, very productive and a nice hazelnut/butternut squash type flavor. Highly recommended. Long Island Cheese on the other hand is like a big soggy pile of bitter spaghetti strings, as grown here.

JoanBailey said...

Daniel - I've had a few volunteers in pots, but not in the garden here yet. You inspired me to try saving a few seeds to see what we get. I know it's a bit of a gamble, but I figure it will be interesting!

Farmer Demmon! So glad to hear from you! And thanks for the word on Long Island Cheese. The name really puts me off, although I am sure it has its fans. I mean, an heirloom doesn't get this far if it's complete yuck, right? I'm still on the hunt for Futsu.

Maggie said...

Interesting looking varieties! You inspired me to post my pumpkins and squash from this year, here.

I have to disagree with Farmer Demmon's opinion on Long Island Cheese pumpkins though. They are a favorite pumpkin of mine and I haven't ever had a stringy or bitter one. They did get beat by another variety this year in my garden though.

JoanBailey said...

Hi Maggie! I wonder what turned out differently for you. And what variety bumped them off the top of the favorites list?