Pumpkin Smackdown

I debated about what to call this project. Was is a smackdown or a throwdown? Or maybe a bake-off? I finally decided to call it a smackdown, since Merriam-Webster defines that as “a confrontation between rivals or competitors.” In this case the rivals are several varieties of pumpkins and winter squashes I grew this year, and they are competing to tempt my taste buds to see if I will grow them again. The event took place this week, and here is my report on the results.

winter squashes for smackdown

winter squashes for smackdown

The rivals in this competition included two C. moschata varieties (Pennsylvania Dutch Crookneck Squash and Waltham Butternut), two C. maxima varieties (Boston Marrow and Candy Roaster) and one C. pepo (Kumi Kumi). All were grown here in our garden, and were harvested when fully ripe and mature. After curing, they have been kept in the relative cool of our basement pantry area. In the above photo, the Pennsylvania Dutch Crookneck is in front, and from left to right we have the Kumi Kumi, Waltham Butternut, Boston Marrow and Candy Roaster.

Boston Marrow squash

Boston Marrow squash

To prepare the squashes, I cut them in half and removed the seeds and pulp. Then I cut them in pieces, put them in a baking dish and roasted them in a 400°F oven until the flesh was tender. This took anywhere between 60 and 90 minutes, depending on the size of the squash and the thickness of the flesh.

pumpkin cut up and ready for roasting

pumpkin cut up and ready for roasting

After roasting, I let them cool enough to handle, then scooped out the flesh from the skins. I drained off any excess liquid that separated from the flesh, then I pureed the flesh with a immersion blender until smooth.

pureeing pumpkin with blender

pureeing pumpkin with blender

This project turned into a marathon, and it took pretty much the whole day to cook and process the pumpkins. By the end of the day, I was pretty much sick of the smell of roasting squash. But I wasn’t quite through just yet, because can you guess what I had for dinner? Yep, baked winter squash!

roasted Candy Roaster squash

roasted Candy Roaster squash

Here are my thoughts on the five varieties I baked and tasted. Of course, tastes are very subjective. Most people are familiar with butternut squash, so I’ll try to use that as a reference point. And frankly, since butternut and its close relative the neck pumpkin do so well here in the garden and in the kitchen, they are pretty much my gold standard for pumpkins, and the ones to beat when it comes to taste and yield.

neck pumpkin hanging from garden fence

Pennsylvania Dutch Crookneck  hanging from garden fence

  1.  Pennsylvania Dutch Crookneck Squash – the flesh is moist, fine textured, and tastes much like butternut squash. I sometimes describe it as a ‘butternut on PEDs’. The vines ramble, and the plant is prolific. The fruits keep for at least 6 months in storage. I will grow this one again for sure.

    Waltham butternut supported by fence

    Waltham butternut supported by fence

  2. Waltham Butternut – flesh is moist, not stringy, and very sweet and flavorful after a few months in storage. The rambling vines were prolific, and resistant to SVB. I’ll grow this one again too. (For those with small gardens or a short growing season, the Early Butternut variety has a bush habit and the flavor and quality is similar to Waltham in my experience)

    Boston Marrow winter squash

    Boston Marrow winter squash

  3. Boston Marrow – the flesh is moist, with a nice texture and mild taste. The rambling vines gave me one giant squash that weighed over 16 pounds before curing. It isn’t really any better tasting than butternut though in my opinion, and the huge fruits make it difficult to use in the kitchen. Though it’s a good squash for baking, I don’t think I will grow it again – all things considered.

    Candy Roaster squash

    Candy Roaster squash

  4. Candy Roaster – this one had the mildest taste of all, which to me was not necessarily a good thing. The vines gave me two usable fruits weighing a total of 27 pounds, so it was a good yielder. Given the mild taste though, I don’t think I will grow it again.

    mature Kumi Kumi has a tough rind

    mature Kumi Kumi has a tough rind

  5. Kumi Kumi – the rind is hard, and difficult to pierce. The flesh has a rich flavor when baked, but it is a bit stringy. The texture is fine when pureed. This dual purpose squash gave me lots of squash that I harvested both at the immature and mature stages. I let five of them mature for winter use, and these averaged about 6 pounds each. I will grow this one again for sure, though I think it is better used as a summer squash.

This was an interesting project to say the least. And a rewarding one, since we now have lots of pumpkin puree in the freezer. Plus, I made a batch of pumpkin custard using some of the Boston Marrow puree. That was my reward to myself for my marathon pumpkin baking session.

pumpkin custard

pumpkin custard

I hope you have enjoyed reading my thoughts on these varieties, and how they performed in the garden and in the kitchen. Next year, I will be growing the Pennsylvania Dutch Crookneck Squash, Waltham Butternut, and Kumi Kumi again. And I plan on trying two more heirloom open pollinated C. moschata varieties: Black Futsu and Long Island Cheese. I’ll be back soon with more adventures from Happy Acres.

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5 Responses to Pumpkin Smackdown

  1. Michelle says:

    Thanks for the smack down, it’s very informative. I think you asked me about the Black Futsu that I grew this year and I never got around to a response, much less a post about it. I had two plants that rambled far but were actually pretty easy to direct where I wanted them to go. I ended up with 8 mature squash for a total of 25 pounds. I’ve tried a few of them prepared a few different ways. One of my husband’s favorite ways to eat winter squash is sliced, peeled, and pan fried. He loved the Black Futsu prepared that way. It was also pretty good halved and roasted but I preferred it sliced and pan fried or sliced and roasted. The flesh is about 1/2 to 3/4 inch thick, at least in the smaller specimens that I’ve cooked so far, I’ve reserved the larger ones for later use as I think the larger ones may keep better. It’s somewhat coarse textured, almost stringy but not falling apart and the flavor is not sweet but it is rich, almost chestnutty, I like it. It also has a lot of seeds which are really good roasted – the skins are thin enough that the seeds are edible without peeling them. It definitely did well in my garden, SVB’s are not a problem here but powdery mildew is a huge problem and the plants resisted it until the end of the season when the squash were already mature. And then it had a second growth spurt, blooming and setting new squash even as the first squash were hardening off. It doesn’t match my favorite squash – Marina di Chioggia – for eating qualities, but I love it for being easy to grow, productive, tasty, and I love getting a number of small squash instead of a few big ones since I prefer to cook and eat the squash “fresh” rather than cooking a bunch a freezing it (things tend to get forgotten in my freezer).
    Michelle recently posted…Harvest Monday – December 9, 2013My Profile

    • Dave says:

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts on the Black Futsu. I like the idea that it can be sliced and prepared much like we do Delicata, either roasted or pan-fried. And it sounds like a nice size for us.

      The Marina di Chioggia and Long of Naples are two Italian heirlooms I am considering for next year. The Long of Naples gets huge, which could limit its use somewhat, so the Marina di Chioggia might be a better fit for our needs.

  2. Daphne says:

    Thanks for the round up. I tend to grow Waltham as it is such a good producer and doesn’t die to the SVB. It also grows well under the corn, which is where my squash is required to ramble. As it keeps the racoons from eating my corn. I have grown Black Futsu and it didn’t produce well for me (maybe doesn’t like the partial shade of the corn).
    Daphne recently posted…A Penny Saved . . . Sometimes Ruins Your MustardMy Profile

  3. Liz says:

    Loved both the name and the info in this post. My favourite pumpkin variety at the moment is a Japanese one called Ebisu. It has a richer flavour than Butternut and has significantly less moisture which makes it really useful for making things like gnocchi. It also makes sensational soup. I will have a look that Dutch Crookneck squash here as that looks like a lot of fun.
    Liz recently posted…Are Farmer’s Markets more expensive?My Profile

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