Seven Trees Farm is on an ongoing mission, to seek out new life forms, and boldly go where no subsistence ‘stead has gone before….Well, in terms of discovering hardy, tasty and easy-to-grow fruits & veggies, that is. One new-to-us variety is the Sweet Meat winter squash.
It has a long history in the Pacific Northwest, being introduced by the Gill Brothers seed company of Portland, OR nearly 100 years ago. When a plant variety is grown in a certain region for a length of time, it will adapt to the local ecosystem and be more productive than seeds from a national producer. This process can be encouraged further by saving seed from plants grown in your own garden. (A great book on seed saving is Seed to Seed by Suzanne Ashworth.) There are only a few species of squash (Sweet Meat are Curcurbita maxima), and family members within each species will cross-pollinate like nobody’s business. If you really want to save seeds, it’s easier to limit yourself to one from each family. Otherwise you have to cover the blossoms and hand pollinate, or resign yourself to pump-zinis that may or may not be edible.
Since squash plants grow like crazy, we only planted two of the Sweet Meat starts. We weren’t always sure if the squash vines we planning a coup or not, given their drive to escape the confines of their part of the garden. Those two plants ended up producing 190lbs. of squash which individually weighed from 10-20lbs.
Sweet Meats taste good and they keep good. They are hard-skinned, so they take a little effort to butcher, but that is what makes them last so long in storage. We harvested ours at the end of September 2011, and in March 2012 they are still hanging in there. The seeds are plump and large, great for roasting. The seed cavity isn’t terribly huge, which means there is usually about 3 inches of sweet ‘meat’ to eat. We peeled, cubed, and roasted some with potatoes, onions, garlic & herbs. So tasty!
This late into storage, they’ve taken on a peachy flush over the pale green they wore at harvest. There aren’t many left in our cool pantry, and we check them every few days for signs of spoilage. Rot tends to set in from the bottom, at the blossom end, but since they are so huge there is plenty to salvage from the cull squash.
The hens and chicks LOVE baked squash and seeds, so we feed them 1/4 of these giants every other day or so. One of our goals for 2012 is to explore more homegrown chicken feed, and this veggie will definitely further that goal. With all the nutrients in winter squash, we plan to till up more ground for these PNW sweeties. If you have space in your garden and are looking for a great storage squash Seven Trees Farm gives Sweet Meat an enthusiastic recommendation!