What is big, blue, warty, and lurks in the garden? Did you say: "Uncle Mac on a frosty winters night?"
While technically correct it is not exactly the answer we were looking for. We were thinking of something a bit more wholesome like a blue hubbard squash.
Blue Hubbards and in fact Hubbards squash of all hues are no longer as common as they were in the early years of the 20th century and before, when they were one of the few foods that could be counted on to pass through a long winter unspoiled, if kept properly. Large - some can weigh thirty pounds or even more - and with a singularly tough rind, Hubbards need to be kept in a cool, but not cold or freezing well ventilated and dry environment.
In the past special "squash houses" would be constructed to preserve Hubbards and large butternut squash to supply eager markets in New York City, Boston and Chicago. Some farmers and tradesmen became very wealthy on this crop alone.
|PURPOSE BUILT SQUASH HOUSE CONSTRUCTED CIRCA 1915 AT WRITE-LOCKE FARM, WINCHESTER MASS, FOR COMMERCIAL TRADE.|
The Hubbard squashes come to us from South America where apparently they have been cultivated for some 4000 years. Tradition has it that they were brought to Marblehead Massachusetts in the late 1700's, aboard whaling vessels. A woman named Elizabeth Hubbard may have been responsible for spreading and endorsing the seeds, and gave her name to the veggie in the process.
Would you like to grow this fine heirloom squash? The seeds are readily available and culture is exactly the same as for any large pumpkin. Prepare large hills 8 feet apart or so. Work lots of compost into the soil and if very well rotted horse manure is available - not fresh enough to burn the tender squash roots - a few shovels full of that would not be amiss. Allow a maximum of 3 plants per hill and water the plants well. Hubbards will run all over the place on vines 20 feet long or longer, so prior planning is essential.
Hubbards can take 110 days to develop fully so if you want some for this season you have to plant them a soon as possible.
There are many ways to use the Hubbard squash's bright orange meat, and these include all the standard uses that any winter squash or pumpkin can be put to. You may roast them, steam them, make a custard or squash pie, or even as the key ingredient in many tasty soups. They also, with a great deal of work, be fashioned into really quirky jack-o-lanterns. The rinds are very difficult to cut.
In fact, the easiest way to open a Blue Hubbard for processing is to place it in a large plastic bag, walk out on the patio, raise it chest high and drop it.
This excellent old squash has two mortal enemies that need to be thwarted if you are to be the one to enjoy its goodness. The first is the all too common squash bug; once established this scourge will suck the vines dry and kill the plant before the squash can mature. Indifferent to most controls the best way to avoid them is to pick their orange eggs from the underside of the leaves and destroy them.
The second adversary is Mr. Bear. Not deterred in the least by the tough rind this furry rapscallion will happily shatter your nearly ripe squash with the flick of one paddle-like paw. He has no interest in the squash at all, but will eat every single seed from the core. He will seldom breach a stout fence to do this, but when he is sufficiently hungry, all bets are off.