These are the three best-looking Dutch squashes that came out of my garden this year.
I bought a packet of squash seeds in Holland, The Netherlands, last year, and I grew a few of the plants this season in the garden. A few weeks ago, we harvested the squashes. Shown above is a photo of the best-looking three. I could have sworn the fruits had an unusual yellow skin tone on the seed packet, but what I got were a dwarf version of Muscade de Provence, which is a very popular squash in northern European gardens. I suppose I should save the seeds, as dwarf cheese squashes are all the rage in farmers markets these days, the larger squashes being deemed too big for easy retail sale.
Iâ€™ve always been a bit baffled by squash naming, being somewhat aware that there are a few notable genera, including Cucurbita maxima, Cucurbita moschata and Cucurbita pepo, and that pumpkins and zucchini are pepos, and the winter squashes are the two mâ€™s. In my quick online research for this blog, I cracked up when I found Muscade de Provence variously identified as a member of the maxima, moschato, and pepo genera. In this taxonomic scramble, I vote for the correct name being probably something like Cucurbita moschata Muscade de Provence.
I came across lots of other names for this squash, such as Fairytale (It has fruits shaped like the pumpkin-turned-carriage in Cinderella.), French Cheese (It is a cheese-type and an obvious sister of the Long Island Cheese squash.), Musque, and Musqee de Provence, and even potiron bronze de MontlhÃ©ry! In any case, Iâ€™m certain that what we have is a deliberately dwarfed version of the classic Muscade de Provence. Those big Muscade squashes can weigh 30 pounds, and our squashes are much smaller, perhaps 3 to 5 pounds each.
Squashes do interbreed relatively easily, as long as adjacent plantings allow easy pollen transfer by bees and other pollinators. I would like to breed some of the colorful yellow and green stripes into one of the mini muscade, but again, Iâ€™m confused taxonomically. If Tonda Padana, also known as American Tondo, my favorite yellow-with-green-stripes squash variety is a Curcurbita pepo as I suspect, then thereâ€™s a good chance I wonâ€™t be able to cross it with a moschato, as I suppose the Muscade is. Ha!
Luckily, growing these squashes is pretty easy around here because we donâ€™t have those nasty squash stem pests. Iâ€™ve always thought of squashes as being perfect compost plants, so I try to dump a bunch of compost or similar into sub-surface holes before I plant squash. There doesnâ€™t seem to be a big advantage in early planting except in northern areas where the cold sneaks in early in fall. Space is the problem that I have, because the squash plants are really huge compared to the small size of the little planting areas we have on the cliff garden. I drape them up and over fixtures when I can, but even then itâ€™s a challenge because the vines can easily crawl up to 30 feet in length. I suppose I really should be growing this squash on a big, flat field near a canal somewhere in Holland.
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