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The Tale of the Cushaw Squash

If you’re not as familiar with cushaw squash as you are other fall squash varieties—-such as butternut, acorn, pumpkins, or kabocha squash—-well, you’re not alone.  We weren’t all that familiar with it, either.  Well, I’ve never even heard of it.  John, on the other hand, had only temporarily forgotten about it until we visited our farmer friend Benny on Saturday.  

After a hot morning spent taking a stroll through his fields, talking about the weather, and talking about the weather some more, Benny bent over and picked us a big ol’ cushaw squash from the vine.  As we were on our way out, I asked Doris, Benny’s wife, what she does with them.  She just shrugged her shoulders and mentioned baking it with brown sugar and butter.  This must be an older way of doing squash, because John’s Granny in Missouri had a similar method for the yellow straightneck variety—a summer staple.

Turns out, what Benny’s got growing is one of many heritage foods certified by Slow Food USA as one of their Ark of Taste products.  The Green-striped Cushaw, according to its listing on the Ark of Taste website, is believed to have been domesticated in Mesoamerica sometime between 7000 and 3000 B.C.  It’s rare, though not impossible to find.  It’s just that they’re being grown in such small numbers that it seems unlikely that future (or modern) farmers will find it worthwhile to cultivate them.  But this is why Ark of Taste exists, to catalog and bring awareness to traditional foods of distinctive quality that are at risk of extinction.

Pretty cool that our pal Benny is growing them in our little part of the world!  He has an early round that’s ready now, and just put out a second planting that we hope will be ready for harvest in late October.  This is definitely something we’d love to include in our fall CSA boxes one week if his yield is enough.  What a wonderful thing to share!

 

Roasted Cushaw Squash with Rosemary & Garlic

Being that the cushaw is not widely used, a recipe was hard to come by.  I kept reading that cushaw squash was an excellent substitute for pumpkin in pie fillings, so I found a recipe in The Gift of Southern Cooking for roasted pumpkin with rosemary and decided to substitute the pumpkin with my cushaw squash.  It worked!  Here’s my adaptation:

My squash weighed in at a good six pounds, at least, so I only used half. I cut it lengthwise, scooped out the seeds, peeled the piece I planned to use, and wrapped the other half in saran for later use.  Then I chopped it in 1 1/2-inch cubes, to yield about 6 cups chopped squash, and then set that aside while I prepared the rosemary and garlic.

The recipe called for walnuts, too, but because I didn’t have those in the pantry I just omitted them.  I snipped a few sprigs of rosemary from the garden—to yield 1/4 cup of rosemary leaves–and peeled 3 big cloves of garlic.  Chop the rosemary fine and slice the garlic into thin pieces.  Set aside.

9.3squashroasted

This is the photo I took when the squash was finished cooking and ready to be served.  To cook the squash, preheat your oven to 400 degrees.  Arrange the chopped cushaw in one layer on a baking sheet, and drizzle with 4 tablespoons of good quality olive oil.  Toss to coat, and give a good sprinkling of kosher salt.  Bake the squash for 20 minutes, stopping halfway in between to stir the squash with a spatula to prevent it from sticking.  After 20 minutes, sprinkle the squash with the rosemary-garlic mixture, and toss to coat the squash evenly.  Cook another 10 minutes.  Remove the squash from the oven, let cool, then season to taste with more salt and black pepper.

We enjoyed it for lunch, with freshly grated Parmesan cheese, but it would be good for dinner, too.  It makes a fairly substantial vegetarian meal on its own, but would be equally delicious as a side with grilled pork chops or roasted chicken.  Roasted, the cushaw squash was reasonably sweet, and somewhat smoky, as online articles suggested it would be.  And it’s starchy texture makes it a very good stand in for potatoes.  We’re definitely looking forward to having it again.  Thanks Benny!

 

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Rainy Morning

Over our early morning cup of coffee, the rain came back!  We’d been woken up during the middle of the night by a pretty decent thunderstorm and about twenty minutes of downpour.  What a gift to have already received a whole morning of steady showers, distant thundering, and slightly cooler temps.  Especially on this Labor Day holiday.

The overcast skies help give all the plants in the field a much needed break from the beatdown of the sun.  We don’t mind the relief either.  It makes being oudoors fun again.  Well…tolerable at least.

Puddles

When little puddles start showing up on the property, we know it’s been a decent rain.  Of course, any rain is something to celebrate.  The rain gauge said we’ve gotten 1 1/2 inches since Saturday night.  Not bad!

Cows

Too wet to work outside (how often do we get to claim that?), the guys spent most of the early morning in the greenhouse.  We’re direct-sowing more arugula in the greenhouse beds to fill in where germination has been sparse, and starting more seeds for our fall season.  These are mostly leafy greens and lettuces, but we’re also starting some additional summer squash, zucchini, and cucumbers.  These summer carryovers should only take 45 days or so from seed, so we still have plenty of time before the first frost to get a harvest from them.  In two-to-three weeks they should be ready to go out into the field.

9.2.collard

Our first round of collard greens, kale, and rainbow chard are looking great in the greenhouse, and are nearly ready to go in the ground on the farm.

Lacinato (Tuscan) Kale

9.2delicataThis delicata squash (pictured above) will be the last planting we’ll get in this year that we may still be able to get a harvest from.  The first round of fall squash we planted did excellent.  The second round—still in the field—we’re still really unsure of.  This heat we’ve had the last few weeks has really taken a toll on them.  Maybe if we get a reprieve from the heat we may be able to get a fair harvest, but we really can’t be certain.

Rainbow Chard

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Baked Cinnamon French Toast

My Mom came to visit this weekend, so a serious Sunday breakfast was in order.  There’s nothing better than having a breakfast splurge on the weekend—-donuts, bacon & eggs, a stack of pancakes—-but a homemade one is always the best.  She made this Baked Cinnamon French Toast for us.  And despite not having any maple syrup in the house, we completely devoured it!  I jotted down the recipe from a recorded episode of The Pioneer Woman.  I think I’ll abandon all traditional French Toast recipes in the future and use this baked one to build upon for future variations.  It was that easy.

A little bit of heaven on a plate.

 

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Our Week in Pictures

We’re slowly making over our website, and one element we’re really committing to this time around is our blog.  To keep it simple on the weekends, usually our busiest time, our ritual is going to be to go through pictures we’ve taken throughout the week and post them here.  This is our first of (we hope) many to come.

An African-breed cow, the Ankole Watusi.

Mama and Baby longhorns.

Okra is the only crop looking good in this extreme heat. Even the flowers on this red okra plant manage to retain their beauty.

Angel, our silly great pyrenees, playing around.

Our boy Sam turned 3 months old this week.

John and Oscar discussing the plans for the day.

We encountered a very social donkey on the way back from visiting our friend Benny.

He really was a very beautiful creature, by donkey standards.

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