Can You Imagine Common Everyday Squash As Rare Exotic Plants?
Well, believe it or not, there are some varieties of squash that are grown in the far reaches of the globe that are considered very rare and exotic plants – especially, here in the good ole U.S.A. There are even some types of squash grown right here in various parts of America that are a bit unusual. And, they are all easy to grow – and will do well in hardiness zones 3 through 11 – some are prolific even in zones 1 and 2!
Here’s just a few rarities to think about for this year’s backyard garden…
Also called kaywa. caigua, or Bolivian cucumber, achocha squash is grown in many Central American countries. Originally, it became a garden staple in the Andes – in both Bolivia and Colombia.
The raw young fruit mostly tastes like a mint-flavored cucumber with a hint of bell pepper. Mature achocha has a tougher skin and is perfect baked – and stuffed with any variety of meats, fishes, or cheeses.
These soft thorny fruits are typical squashes – with both male and female flowers – thus, they are self-pollinating – as long as the wind blows. Trellis them for best results since their vines will grow all over the place once they get started. You’ll have these popping up on the vines every few inches – more than you could ever consume or preserve!
Achocha plants are very resistant to snails that can’t wait to take a bite out of an unsuspecting squash.
Achocha growth is enhanced when companion planted along with Topinambur – otherwise known as Jerusalem Artichokes. Yumheart Gardens is the place to go for Topinambur seeds. And, don’t plant achocha where corn or cabbages have grown for the last several gardening seasons. The pests and diseases that stick around corn and cabbage crops like to leave their mark on this little green squash.
The company, Exotic Plants, has a great deal for achocha seeds. Check it out!
The round little buggers have a shiny, dark green skin – with a sweet, nutty, and buttery flavor – much like an Italian zucchini. They are best picked at 3 to 4 inches in diameter.
Don’t let them get too much bigger because, they start to take on the hardness of wood – and the seeds become inedible. If they reach this point, you may as well paint them black and put a number “8” on them in a white circle!
It takes a shade under 2 months to get eight balls from planting to harvest. The young ones are great –baked and stuffed.
Burpee has the best Eight Ball seeds for a healthy crop of these orbs.
Golden Nugget squash was developed 50 years ago in an experimental North Dakota agricultural lab to be used as a substitute for sweet potatoes.
Moist, iridescent orange flesh with a flavor ranging from mostly “extra sweet” to occasionally bland – will come out of these beauties. The texture is somewhat starchy – floury and dry – like a cross between a sweet potato and a regular pumpkin. Many call it an “oriental pumpkin.”
Treat it like a normal pumpkin – after removing seeds and pulp from the cavity – scoop out the fleshy innards.
Golden Nuggets can be roasted, baked, steamed, sautéed, or boiled with or without the skin. Just remove the skin before eating it.
PlenTree is the best supplier of Golden Nugget seeds.
Originating in Jarrahdale, New Zealand, this squash is a cross between Blue Hubbard and Cinderella pumpkins. The inner flesh is thick and orange colored – and has a mild, sweet, fruity taste and has the most wonderful smell.
Pumpkin pies made with Jarrahdale pumpkins are a taste made in heaven.
Burpee is the place to go for Jarrahdale seeds.
Queensland Blue Australian Squash
The flesh is golden and extraordinarily sweet – and a little nutty. This is an Australian heirloom squash that made its first arrival to American shores in the early 1930’s.
Get the best Queensland Blue Australian organic seeds now!
This is a big ‘un! It will weigh in anywhere from 15 to 40 pounds!
Smooth, sweet, and nutty – like the Queensland Blue – with a skin that is blue tinged. The Hubbard squash arrived by ship from the West Indies in the early 1850’s. It was the sailor’s choice for making long sea journeys because it had such a long shelf life – upwards of 6 months or more.
Don’t wait too long – get some Blue Hubbard seeds from Stonysoil Seed Company – and get them started now!
Credit the Cherokee Indians in the Appalachian Mountain range in the southeastern U.S.A. – for producing this colorful squash. So smooth and sweet – but wait! It actually becomes sweeter and sweeter over time!
Fried, baked, roasted, puréed – it’s also great in pies, breads, stews, casseroles – you name it!
Try some out – head on over to Frozen Seed Capsules to get started.
Is it a flying saucer? Is it a child’s spinning top?
No, it’s pattypan squash! And, it’s unconditionally an obvious stand out in any grocery store produce section that offers it – due to its bizarre appearance. Most are showing off their sunshine bright yellow color but, many are white – and some are a little on the green side.
They taste like a tender zucchini – just a tad sweeter – if eaten when young and small. After they’ve reached full maturity, pattypan squash acquires the taste of a potato.
In Provence, in southern France, they call it pâtisson – meaning a cake made in a scalloped mold. Other names around the world include scallop squash, peter pan squash, granny squash, scallopini squash, and sunburst squash. Folks in the Poughkeepsie, New York, area call it “schwoughksie” (shwooxie) squash – which, I suppose, is an offshoot variation of the name of their city – giving them credit for producing this peculiar veggie.
Being a great supplier of vitamins and minerals, this squash contains no fat and no more than 30 calories per cupful.
In keeping with standard protocol for cooking other squash types, pattypan squash can be sautéed, fried, baked – or sliced up raw in salads. The more mature squash – with its slightly firmer skin – can be hollowed out and stuffed with any food of choice.
Seeds provided by Frozen Seed Capsules are called Pâtisson Strie Melange. These seeds are a mix of white, yellow, and green pattypan squash – some are striped and some are kinda warty. They’re not only tasty but, a real conversation piece!
If you prefer white pattypan seeds, go to Stonysoil Seed Company for their White Bush Scallop.
What a flashy, orangish-red squash this is! Best harvested when the leaves dry up and the skin darkens, Red kuri winter squash produces a sweet and nutty flavor – much like chestnuts. I love to eat these roasted on a grill – or spooning out the golden orange innards – and adding the flesh to soups or stews.
Clip off some flowers and pan fry them with other veggies for a very flavorful meal. Just leave some for self-pollination or you won’t get any squash!
There are a couple of great places to get these seeds:
Burpee’s Red Kuri seeds have a higher germination rate than many other offerings on the market today.
Stonysoil Seed Company has Japanese Heirloom Red Kuri Hokkaido Squash seeds that will yield excellent produce.
Sweet Potato Squash
As the name suggests, this squash – shaped like a big acorn – has a very conspicuous sweet potato taste – with a hint of chestnut.
Easily grown in any hardiness zone imaginable, it takes about 3 months from planting to harvest – and then be prepared to enjoy the benefits of this plant – that grows less than a foot tall – but, spreads out 4 feet wide. The fruit is best picked when it’s between 6 and 8 inches.
Go to Burpee and get some Thelma Sander’s Sweet Potato Winter Squash Seeds.
Take off the “cino” and add an “e” – and, you have “trombone.” That is what this squash looks like – a trombone!
Tromboncino is mostly a summer squash that has a higher tolerance than its Cucurbita relatives when it comes to pests like vine borers and squash bugs – as well as diseases like powdery mildew.
Originating in the Genoa area of northwestern Italy – along the shores of the Ligurian Sea – tromboncino changes from a pale green in its youth to more of a beige color at maturity.
Many gardeners grow it on trellises – not only to keep it off the ground but, to keep it straight. If it isn’t trellised, tromboncino will begin to curl up in a serpentine fashion.
Tromboncino tastes best if harvested when it’s about a foot long – but, if you let it alone, it can reach a full yard – 3 feet – in length.
Sweeter than zucchini when young and green, tromboncino takes on the flavor of butternut squash as it ages. Since tromboncino is densely packed, it’s a great candidate for the grill – cooking next to steaks, fish, burgers, or hot dogs.
Looks just like a sultan’s turban, doesn’t it? What an amazingly colorful squash this is! Other names include Mexican hat, Turk’s cap, and Giraumon turban.
The mature fruit weighs in at about 6 pounds. Colors can vary but turk’s turban usually has splotches of white, green, and orange – making it very festive looking.
The taste of its floury and dense orange flesh is a bit tame – some call it bland. But, it has an interesting hazelnut flavor. Depending on the variety, turk’s turban can be fairly sweet.
Baking, steaming, and roasting are all good ways to cook a turban squash – and, it is easily cooked with or without the skin. Just remove the skin before eating it – the skin taste is not compatible with the palates of most of us I’m here to tell ya!
Treeseedz offers high quality Turk’s Turban seeds with high germination rates.
Yugoslavian Finger Fruit
Much like pattypan squash, the Yugoslavian Finger Fruit has also been compared to UFOs and children’s’ toys. But, unlike pattypan, the scallops grow longer – looking like fingers – 8 or 10 of them.
There are almost no seeds in this mild flavored squash. And, it can be eaten – skin and all!
That’s The End Of Another Edition Of Rare And Exotic Plants
Lots of “strange – but true” squash for you! Comment or email me and tell me which ones you would like to grow – or, relate your experiences with any of them that you have grown!
Jim, the Lifelong Gardener