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Recently harvested Butternut squash lies in piles in the field at W. Rogowski Farm. Butternut squash is one of the most popular varieties today. It was developed in the 1930s in Western Massachusetts, by a farmer who crossed the long, stringy Gooseneck squash with the large, tough Hubbard.

W. Rogowski Farm spreads across a valley floor, hemmed by low, wooded hills, in the black dirt region of upstate New York. Many farms fill the landscape here, where the strikingly dark and fertile soil can yield prolific harvests. But Rogowski Farm, where second generation farmer Cheryl Rogowski became the first-ever farmer to win a MacArthur ‘Genius Award’ eight years ago, has a notable following in New York City, as a favorite supplier to many chefs, and a mainstay at the Carroll Gardens and Union Square Greenmarkets.

On a recent visit to the farm, photographer Heather Phelps-Lipton found mounds and mounds of squash of all shapes, colors and sizes filling the fields and the open lot in front of the farm’s store. Inspired by the diversity, she set out to make portraits of a few of the farm’s early winter fruit.

Sweet Dumpling (top) and Buttercup squash (bottom). Sweet dumpling squash has a pale, edible skin with green or orange stripes, and tender, orange flesh. Buttercup squash, is notably sweet. Its flavor is often compared to that of a sweet potato.

Pennsylvania Dutch Crookneck. This variety was developed in the 19th century in Pennsylvania, and is still particularly popular in Amish communities. It’s as practical as it is pretty – its long ‘neck’ is filled with buttery, seedless flesh.

Kabocha and Red Kuri. Word has it that all squash originated in Mesoamerica. When the kabocha (pictured in green) was introduced to Japan in the sixteenth century by Portuguese sailors, it was quickly adopted as a cherished component of Japanese cuisine. The story of the Red Kuri’s journey to Japan has been lost, but it’s become equally popular. The sweet, nutty flavor of the flesh of both varieties is often compared to chestnuts.

Sucrine Du Berry. This squash is an heirloom variety that traces its roots back to the province of Berry, in the heart of France. Its name, in fact, means, ‘the sweet one from Berry.’ Its flesh is sweet, musky, and complex.

White Acorn and Table Gold Acorn. The standard green acorn squash is a very old variety. It was cultivated as far back as 4000 B.C. The white and table gold varieties? Not so old. The white acorn, for example, was developed in the early 1980’s by Iowa-based squash researcher and seed preservationist Glenn Drowns. Both varieties are known for their mild, nutty taste.

Cream of the Crop Acorn and Blue Ballet. The Cream of the Crop Acorn is another recently developed varietal of the venerable acorn. In 1990, it was named an ‘All-America Selection’ – an award bestowed upon new varieties of plants judged to have 'superior garden performance.' It has a sweet, creamy, golden flesh. The Blue Ballet was bred from the much larger Blue Hubbard variety. The blue skin hides deep golden flesh with a mild, sweet flavor.

Small Wonder Spaghetti and Musque De Provence. The smooth, round, yellow Small Wonder Spaghetti squash is less starchy than most winter squash, giving it a milder flavor closer to that of a summer squash. Once cooked, its flesh can be easily shredded with a fork into spaghetti-like strands. The Musque de Provence is a very old, traditional variety from the south of France, prized for its particularly beautiful appearance, its dense, sweet, orange flesh and its unique, musky aroma and unusually complex flavor. Unlike most pumpkins and squash, the Musque is traditionally eaten fresh, cut from the middle like a wedge of cheese and thinly sliced.

Patty Pan. The Patty Pan, or Scallop squash was one of the earliest varieties described by European settlers in North America. They were popular among Native American tribes, who frequently cultivated them. It’s a tender squash with a buttery flavor similar to zucchini, and is generally harvested to eat in summer.

Photography by Heather Phelps-Lipton. All rights reserved.

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3 Responses to Winter Squash: A Minor Primer

  1. Pingback: Pumpkin Spice | AnnieRie Unplugged

  2. Johnny says:

    Genius indeed! Up until now, no one to my knowledge has EVER crossed a c.moschata(Gooseneck) with a c.maxima(Hubbard). Let me know when they get a successful breeding of a cat with a duck.

    • Naveen says:

      The results are inrtteseing but I would be so angry if I got my film back from the lab and it was damaged. I found a great little place here in SF where I’m comfortable taking my film (I used to develop it all myself but I don’t have darkroom access anymore). After seeing this, though, I’m a little paranoid now!

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