Winter Squash and Pumpkins
Kim and I have been discussing Pumpkins on a different thread about watermelon and, fearing we'd never find the discussion again using the 'search' feature, I came here to start a new thread that would be searchable by subject.
For Kim, and anyone else who's interested, here's an introduction to the squash family.
Winter Squash and Pumpkins are both closely related. In fact, they are both Cucurbitas. The Cucurbita family is large and diverse.
This is a huge family of winter squashes, including these sub-types: buttercup, Australian blue, banana, mammoth, hubbard, turban, zapalito and a few unclassified ones that are lumped in a miscellaneous group.
Buttercup squash usually has bright orange, sweet flesh. They are terrific baked and can be substituted in virtually any sweet potato recipe, including recipes for Sweet Potato Pie. People in northern parts of the USA where it is too cold and the growing season is too short for sweet potatoes can grow buttercup squash as a sweet potato substitute. There are many, many named buttercup squashes, both heirloom OP and hybrid forms.
Australian Blue squashes have pale greenish-bluish-whitish skins and most have bright orange flesh. Most have a very meaty, sweet flesh with no space lost to large seed cavities. These tend to have a very long shelf life under proper storage conditions. A couple of them you might find seed for include Jarrahdale, Queensland Blue and Triamble. The older O-P ones take up a lot of garden space, but there are some new hybrids or O-P selections that have been "sized down" to give you smaller vines and smaller fruit. I think Baby Blue is one of those.
Zapallito squash have very short running vines or bushy plants that produce small fruit. They are rare and I don't know anyone who grows them, although I am sure seed is available for some of them. The best-known one is probably Gold Nugget, which was an AAS selection in the 1960s and for which seed can still be found.
Banana squashes are not seen as often, although sometimes you'll find seed for Blue Banana or Pink Banana on seed racks. Banana squashes are elongated in size and often get huge. They have great taste and texture. Among the O-P varieties for which seed is commonly found are Sibley, Pink Banana and Blue Banana.
Mammoth squash are the gigantic exhibition types often raised for pumpkin-growing contests, and they require massive amounts of soil, space and water to reach their large sizes. These include the famous Atlantic Giant and Week's North Carolina Giant. They have poor quality flesh not suitable for eating.
Hubbard Squashes come in an amazing array of colors, sizes and shapes. Most of them are suitable for eating but they are also great as decorative items. One of my favorites is called Victor, but I like its' common name: "Red Warty Thing". There are many, many named varieties of Hubbard Squash, including Golden Hubbard and Blue Hubbard.
Turban Squashes can be grown and used as table veggies or as decorative ones. Turk's Turban is the one seen most often in grocery stores, but my favorite is an old O-P variety from South American by way of Italy called Marina di Chioggia. It is green-skinned and warty and has fabulous flavor. I have stored Turk's Turban squash for up to a year in my garage in a dry year, although they don't last as long in garage-storage in a more humid and rainy year. They do store a long,long time in a root cellar or underground tornado shelter.
The miscellaneous squashes within the maxima group are those that do not fit into any other category. Some of my favorite "pumpkins" fall into this group of maximas. The classic French pumpkin, Rogue Vif d'Etampes, falls into this category as does the Fortna white 'pumpkin', Lumina (my favorite white 'pumpkin'), and Galeuse e'Eysines, a lovely pale orange warty one and one of the first heirloom O-P winter squashes I ever grew.
These are the squashes we all generally think of as "pumpkins" and the pepo family is huge. Some of them have flesh very suitable for eating, some are raised just for their seeds, some are just for decorative purposes, i.e. as Halloween Pumpkins. However, summer squash like the crookneck, straightneck and zucchini ones we eat and often grow are in the Pepo family too.
Pumpkins that are in the subspecies pepo include Lady Godiva (grown for seed, not flesh), Howden (grown for jack-o-lanterns), Connecticut Field (grown for jack-o-lanterns, and once-upon-a-time for cattle feed), and Ronde de Nice, often incorrectly referred to as a round zucchini, although it is technically a pumpkin. (See how confusing it can be.) Of this group, one of my favorites for pie is Winter Luxury Pie which makes a pumpkin pie that is "to die for".
Pepo also includes acorn squash, like Table Queen, Thelma Sanders Sweet Potato (a squash, not a sweet potato in spite of its name), and Delicata types like Delicata, Bush Delicata, and Sweet Dumpling.
Scallop squash are pepos too, including white bush scallop, yellow bush scallop and Benning's Green Tint. And, of course, also in the pepo subspecies are Yellow Straightneck, Yellow Crookneck, Goldem Zucchini, Black Beauty Zucchini and all the Cocozelle types like Costata Romanesco and Lunga di Toscana.
If you like to grow ornamental gourds, they all are in the pepo subspecies too. There are gazillions of kinds of ornamental gourds available, in all sizes and shapes from egg-sized to bushel-basket sized. These include: Egg or Nest Egg, Bi-Color Pear, Bi-Color Spoon, Shenot Crown of Thorns, and all the warty ones too. And, don't forget birdhouse gourds.
These are the members of the squash family that simply thrive in hot, miserable weather....and it seems the more miserable and hot the weather, the happier they are. Most do not look like the standard orange-skinned pumpkin, but more often have a buff-colored skin and a more oblate shape--these are commonly called cheese pumpkins because of their resemblance to a large wheel of cheese. The neck pumpkins, of which the cushaws are perhaps the best-known are in this group, and so are the Japonicas, which have a very unusual very dark green to blue-black skin. Tropical pumpkins are moschatas too. Crookneck cushaws are a large part of the moschatas. They include Neck Pumpkin, Golden Cushaw, and the lovely Sucrine du Berry.
The cheese pumpkins are the moschatas that grow second best for me here in hot, droughty southern Oklahoma (although the cushaws grow quite well here too). These include Long Island Cheese and Musquee' de Provence.
The moschata group of tropical pumpkins thrive in my southern OK climate most years and grow better for me than any other moschata, except in the coldest, wettest summers. Of them, Seminole grows best and gives me a crop no matter the weather. They are very vigorous and the vines creep and crawl along in the pathways, from row to row, over and among corn plants and tomato cages, etc. Their flavor is excellent. In my garden, Seminole will not die until a very hard frost kills the vines, and you can't kill it by neglect OR by overwatering. It is the first tropical pumpkin I've ever grown, and so far the only--I won't even try another, because I think it is the best.
Japonicas are the oddballs of the squash family, at least in my mind, and that is saying a lot because it is a large and very diverse family. My favorite Japonica is Black Futtsu, which is so small that I grow it on the fence that surrounds the garden. At their largest, the Futtsu get about 2.5 to 3.5 lbs. They have a dark blue-black skin at one point in their growth cycle, although they slowly mature to a very dark umber. They also get sort of shrunken and wrinkly looking. Both Yokohama and Toonas Makino have similar skin color, both keep their darkness as they partially ripen to umber. Toonas Makino has a very odd shape, sort of an hourglass kind of shape.
The last ones are Cucurbita Argyrosperma and I don't grow many of them. They are grown mostly for their seed, but sometimes just as autumn decorative items too. They include Cochita Pueblo, which is very decorative, green-striped cushaw, also a decorative one that gets huge and took over my entire garden, and Tennessee Sweet Potato, which is quite lovely but totally inedible.
So, Kim, that's probably more than you ever wanted to know about the squash family. I grow summer squash for eating, winter squash for eating (esp. in pumpkin pies) and for decorative purposes, pumpkins--mostly for decoration because many aren't worth eating, and gourds for decorative purposes. In an average year, when rain is falling and we are not in the midst of a moderate to severe (or worst, exceptional) drough, I'll grown 10 to 20 kinds of winter and summer squash, pumpkins and gourds. In an abnormally dry year, I'll only grow a couple because they are huge water guzzlers. I like to plant them on the edges of my garden, where they only have a relatively small space within the fenced-in civilized garden, and are allowed to creep and crawl wherever they choose, both within the fenced-in garden and outside the fence and even up the fence and up the surrounding trees. Pumpkin and squash plants will go where they wish and grow as they want, and they do best if I just let them have their own way. (I do try to keep them from climbing the tomato cages, but sometimes they are more determined than I am, and I lose that battle.)
They all take up a lot of space, and most cannot be grown well or easily in containers, except for the mini-pumpkins like Jack-B-Little, Wee-B-Little, Baby Boo, Baby Pam, Cheyenne Bush or, maybe, some of the modern bush-type hybrids. I don't grow many hybrids though. Some people grow pumpkins in kids' plastic wading pools in which multiple drainage holes have been punched. Of course, it takes a lot of soil/compost/manure/pine bark fines to fill up a wading pool.
And, if I was going to grow any winter squash or pumpkin in a container, I'd make the container no smaller than the size of a half-whiskey barrel and I'd know it was likely to need water daily. If the temps are breaking 100, it may need water twice a day in the hottest parts of July and August.
I hope this info helps a little.
If you fall in love with the squash family, you simply must read Amy Goldman's book "THE COMPLEAT SQUASH: A Passionate Grower's Guide to Pumpkins, Squash and Gourds". It is the best book ever on this veggie family and has incredibly lovely photos and a wealth of information, including lots of info on how-to-grow them, and even a few recipes.
I already grew a lot of heirloom and O-P gourds, squash and pumpkins before I read Amy's book, but I learned about a million more kinds while reading/enjoying her work of art.